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theboxman

Panhandling and Homelessness

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Many of us feel the need to give to the "homeless" in Memphis but often these people are not "homeless" and in need of help but people who know that just by panhandling they can make a living. It takes away from the real people in need the homeless with mental health issues when scammers line the street near downtown businesses, tourist attractions and hotels.

It makes us feel that all homeless are just looking for a free ride and we don't support programs for those that really need our help.

We launched a website to raise awareness of homelessness called street-people.com. Our hope was to show that not all the "homeless" are really homeless and that the programs that are supposed to help really don't work and we need to rethink how we address the issue.

It paints a bad picture of our city when you can't walk the street without getting hit up for change.

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It paints a bad picture of our city when you can't walk the street without getting hit up for change.

Ain't that the truth. I wish the MPD could do something about it, but they can't get anything done when they have a mayor that cuts their department all the time. One night I came out of TGI Fridays with a box of a slice of cheesecake and I had 2 black males come up to me asking me if I was "gonna et that sur?". I told them yeah thats why I bought it. Then another time I was taking pictures in Court Square in late afternoon and a black male and a black woman came up to me and the man said the woman had a miscarriage and needed some money. Yeah that made a lot of sense, probably going to go buy some drugs or alcohol with it. I told them no and walked off. It gets pretty annoying and like u said it paints a bad picture for the city.

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i never give pan handlers money. To me it doesnt seem that difficult to get a job that pays 5.25 an hour. i mean you can get a job if you have an 8th grade education and thats it. so unless its a disabled person, or someone who looks genuinely incapacitated that they can not get a job, im normally quite perplexed. call me greedy or unsympathetic, but theres housing out there for 200 dollars a month. I just find it hard to believe things are that hard for them in the United States.

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I deal with "homeless" people with mental health issues. None of them are actually homeless. They just have nothing else to do with their time, so they go downtown and beg for money from people. Most of them get SSI income and stay in group homes. They mainly use the money people give them to buy drugs. They are fed three meals a day at their group home, and the home administers their money for personal items. Then someone gives them $5, they buy some crack, have a psychotic episode, and end up back in the hospital, and the cycle starts over.

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It paints a bad picture of our city when you can't walk the street without getting hit up for change.

I've never gone to a major American city where you could walk the street without getting hit up for change.

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BTW I've worked with various organizations to combat homelessness in several cities, and you have to understand three basic things -

First, there is a distinction between the temporarily and the chronically homeless. The former are homeless for a few weeks or months and then get back on their feet. They make up the majority of the homeless, which means most of the homeless people you encounter do get off the streets (these are based on national statistics though, I can't speak to memphis specifically)

Second, very high percentages of the chronically homeless have severe mental and emotional problems, if not physical ones additionally. There is an alarming and growing problem with the spread of AIDS amongst the homeless as well. Deinstitutionalization in the 1980s contributed to a big upsurge in mentally ill homeless people. So it may well be that a person does not "look" disabled in any obvious or transparent manner, this doesn't mean they don't suffer from severe personality, mental, or emotional disorders, it doesn't mean they aren't slowly dying of AIDS, it doesn't mean they haven't been victims of horrific abuse (homeless teenagers, for example, come from abusive families at staggering rates).

Third, employers are often very reluctant to hire street people. It is a serious catch 22 that in order to get a job, it helps very much to have a permanent address, but in order to afford your own place, you really need a job.

I'm not trying to start a big political fight here. This information doesn't necessarily prove the "rightness" or "wrongness" of any particular approach to homelessness, nor does it mean that it's literally impossible to get off the streets. Some people from abusive backgrounds manage better than others, certainly, and some people fall into vicious drug dependencies which fuel their chronic homelessness, to say nothing of mental and emotional problems. So I'm not trying to redeem every single homeless person and suggest they are pure as the driven snow and social victims or anything like that. But I did just want to point out that just because you see someone who is not visibly physically disabled, it does not immediately follow that they could easily get a job if they cared to.

S

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Panhandling was the biggest thing that I disliked in Memphis. It was absolutely terrible. Random guys coming up to you trying to shake your hand and then when you don't give you anything they curse you out. Once this problem is conquered, Memphis will be a fully enjoyable city to visit. I did love Memphis though, lots of fun! :)

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