A couple of weekends ago while shopping in Eastern Market I was harassed by two homeless men, threatened by one, and witnessed two others using very public places for their bathrooms. Under usual circumstances I give what I can, but these men were particularly viscous and relentless. Now I do not scare easily, but these events left me with such uneasiness that they caused me to lay low in the city for couple of days. I was thinking of what to say about this particular issue, and this is what I have come up with. I do not have any problems with homeless people. I don’t know their stories, or how they came to be in this predicament. Most people fall on hard luck in life and some are not lucky enough to have people around them to help bail them out. That being said, I cannot stand panhandlers. Please have the decency not to harass me when I am walking alone. Please do not name call or threaten me if I don’t have the exact amount of money you have asked for. I can only imagine what people not used to these situations feel when they are only visiting the city; would they return?

10 Comments so far

  1. SD (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    Don’t pay them, and always have pepper spray in case you need defense.

    Their excuses as wanting some money to eat or for bus fare is a blatant lie. There are many shelters that feed them, and the life of a panhandler makes tons of money each day. They resort to spending it on drugs.

    Some may try and debate it, but the fact is a majority of them use it for the wrong purposes and it isn’t worth it to give and assume.

    I’ve had the problems you’ve listed, and its best just to walk away, give them no looks or anything, just ignore them and their actions.

  2. Kim (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 8:37 am

    I agree with the comments above. The pastor at my church even said not to give panhandlers money as this cash is usually used to buy alcohol or drugs. Giving money to many of these panhandlers is just enabling their habits. Panhandlers are a different categoray than homeless people. There are some homeless people who enjoy their life and typically do not bug anyone else for money. There are also many homeless too busy trying to get back on their feet and find a place to live to ask for money. These homeless are probably using their resources such as the shelters and social services available for them. Panhandlers are much different, they are just plain no good.

  3. max (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 9:49 am

    there has been the same guy sitting at the top of the exit ramp from I-94 to Cadiuex (from what i can tell) every day for the past year. looks like he’s making no real effort to remedy his situation, just sitting there with a sign that says “HOMELESS-PLEASE HELP” people must be fueling his lack of ambition or he’d move to a different spot i think. smart son of a bitch is probably making more than i do. maybe i should let myself go, get a case of the fleas, stick a few weeds in my beard, find a good ramp to call my office and quit my day job. ah, who am i kidding, i couldn’t grow a good, thick weed holding beard if my life were on the line. damn it, i guess i’m stuck in this stupid air conditioned retail store earning an honest living.

  4. Tom (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

    I’ve been heckled by bums at Eastern Market before, usually in the winter though, when things aren’t so busy. I have noticed a considerable drop in the Eastern Market bum population this year though, not sure why.

    I rarely give money to bums unless they are playing an instrument.

  5. Tom (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

    As an addendum to my above comment. I did a little unofficial study of Eastern Market and noticed that there is a direct correlation between the type of coffee you are drinking and the quantity of bums that approach you.

    Starbucks has a 5:1 ratio currently over Avalon. Seriously, the Starbucks cup is a bum magnet.

  6. rick (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

    Hi Brooke. This is Rick from metroblogging. I wrote something on them a while ago. You can read it at:

  7. Mollika* (unregistered) on May 31st, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

    Rick’s post was one that spurned some discussion as what to do with the homeless as well as some generalizations we may have. This new post is also about a faction of the homeless which boils down to inappropriate behaviour in general and whether or not it will be tolerated in our city. We talk an awful lot about the homeless; however, I wonder if most people ever do anything proactive. Panhandling is illegal, but it is something I admit that I have never reported. Being homeless is not illegal and there are great organizations in the city that aid with food, shelter, and resources. Should we as Detroiters take a stance and report panhandling? Whether or not we get anyone out is another story I suppose.

  8. richard (unregistered) on June 2nd, 2007 @ 7:06 am

    I generally agree with the above but wonder how many of us actually donate to a Detroit shelter or soup kitchen in order to compensate for our not giving? Despite our conception of whether these people actually deserve help or not, many are in need. We shouldn’t be put off by a few indigents who are probably suffering from some kind of mental disorder.

    On a side note, when I’m not in a hurry I’ll ask the person if they’re hungry. Usually they say yes and then I offer to take them to Jimmy Johns or some other restaurant near by. At that point their story quickly changes, however, I did meet one man named Andrew who gladly accepted my offer. He was a nice guy and I’m glad I took the opportunity to buy him lunch and briefly talk with him. I wouldn’t recommend this for every person but in busy downtown Detroit during the weekday, I hardly feel threatened. There is that hippie-looking white guy that screams from across the street and follows you until you acknowledge him. Him I stay away from like the plague.

  9. dtownie (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    I think we need to more actively discourage people from giving to panhandlers. What if a representative from the homeless shelter or soup kitchen were at Eastern Market on Saturdays ringing a bell and collecting donations and disrupting the activities of the panhandlers. Anytime you were approached by someone else you could tell them you are going to just give money to that charity over there and tell other people who were approached to do the same. This would kill two birds with one stone, raise money for the truly needy and cut the funding of the truly annoying.

  10. Mollika* (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 4:02 pm

    D-Townie – I really like your idea. It would also let the homeless know that they had options closer than they thought.

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