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The panhandlers of Centre Street

Gustaf Berger interviewed 12 of the regulars on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain.

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Obviously this young man cares so much for the homeless and desperate of JP that he was moved to document their suffering for the people who are paying three grand for a two bedroom built in 1905 and love their Whole Foods.

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Voting closed 34

Where are they supposed to shop?

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Voting closed 11

Your demonizing those who frequent Whole Foods or live in an apartment than cost a certain amount is singularly divisive and overall unhelpful to building understanding of the causes of homelessness. While there are certainly credible arguments that can be made about the relative contribution of US economic and governmental policies to the rise of homelessness, the right blaming the homeless for there own situations or left blaming the more well-to-do simply ignores the central issues of contemporary homelessness in America.

The reality is that mental illness among individuals is probably the single greatest contributor to the rise in the number of homeless people in America. Clearly, the structural problems created by de-institutionalization and similar policies throughout the 1980s are at the root of this assessment. The mental health policies of limiting involuntary commitment and allowing state hospitals to discharge patients with nowhere to go were a complete disaster.

Clinicians who examine the homeless today often conclude that about a third have 'severe' mental disorders. People with these disorders usually are incapable of finding work and generally dealing with the myriad of complex life issues that are thrown at them. As a result, while structural forces (e.g. lack of adequate social services, affordable rental units, job training, etc,) may have throw mental patients into the streets, their mental illness certainly contributed to the rise of homelessness by keeping them permanently bound there.

It does not go unnoticed that conservative commentators like to cite a "culture of poverty" among certain segments of the lower class American population as a central reason for the growth of homelessness. This thinking has come to represent the idea that poor people are inherently apathetic, alienated, lazy, unambitious, and especially, disorganized and fatalistic due to the circumstances in which they live. Even after being disproven repeatedly, politicians like Trump and Ryan continue to pursue an agenda that implies that the homeless themselves are primarily responsible for their contemporary predicament.

To understand homelessness and poverty, one must first appreciate the presence of an unstable economy as one of the key factors in determining whether or not a poor person is at risk of becoming homeless. In a landscape where insufficient incomes and unaffordable housing prevail, individuals become homeless when an unexpected financial setback, illness or personal crisis occurs. Once homeless, people are faced with a new and overwhelming set of obstacles.

Moreover, there are a wide array of different sub-groups within the homeless population in general. These include the mentally ill, alcohol or drug addicted, female heads of single households, children, runaway youth, veterans, elderly, families, and some of the working poor. As a result, the degree to which structural or individual factors play the decisive role in determining a person's homelessness varies greatly depending upon the particular case in question.

Instead we should be asking: what should be the goal of public policies be at dealing with homelessness America, and what are the most effective methods of achieving that goal?

While ultimately there is no "right" answer to these questions given the diverse causes and needs of the homeless population, any significant progress in resolving them depends upon a collective response on the part of all American citizens. Only in this way will it be possible to truly provide the type of social activism and national "continuum of care" that is necessary to combat the continuing problem of homelessness.

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Voting closed 17

I would just like to add that some homeless people start out perfectly healthy, mentally and physically, but soon the circumstances of their situations wreak havoc on their health.

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Your demonizing those who frequent Whole Foods or live in an apartment than cost a certain amount is singularly divisive and overall unhelpful to building understanding of the causes of homelessness. While there are certainly credible arguments that can be made about the relative contribution of US economic and governmental policies to the rise of homelessness, the right blaming the homeless for there own situations or left blaming the more well-to-do simply ignores the central issues of contemporary homelessness in America.

The reality is that mental illness among individuals is probably the single greatest contributor to the rise in the number of homeless people in America. Clearly, the structural problems created by de-institutionalization and similar policies throughout the 1980s are at the root of this assessment. The mental health policies of limiting involuntary commitment and allowing state hospitals to discharge patients with nowhere to go were a complete disaster.

Clinicians who examine the homeless today often conclude that about a third have 'severe' mental disorders. People with these disorders usually are incapable of finding work and generally dealing with the myriad of complex life issues that are thrown at them. As a result, while structural forces (e.g. lack of adequate social services, affordable rental units, job training, etc,) may have throw mental patients into the streets, their mental illness certainly contributed to the rise of homelessness by keeping them permanently bound there.

It does not go unnoticed that conservative commentators like to cite a "culture of poverty" among certain segments of the lower class American population as a central reason for the growth of homelessness. This thinking has come to represent the idea that poor people are inherently apathetic, alienated, lazy, unambitious, and especially, disorganized and fatalistic due to the circumstances in which they live. Even after being disproven repeatedly, politicians like Trump and Ryan continue to pursue an agenda that implies that the homeless themselves are primarily responsible for their contemporary predicament.

To understand homelessness and poverty, one must first appreciate the presence of an unstable economy as one of the key factors in determining whether or not a poor person is at risk of becoming homeless. In a landscape where insufficient incomes and unaffordable housing prevail, individuals become homeless when an unexpected financial setback, illness or personal crisis occurs. Once homeless, people are faced with a new and overwhelming set of obstacles.

Moreover, there are a wide array of different sub-groups within the homeless population in general. These include the mentally ill, alcohol or drug addicted, female heads of single households, children, runaway youth, veterans, elderly, families, and some of the working poor. As a result, the degree to which structural or individual factors play the decisive role in determining a person's homelessness varies greatly depending upon the particular case in question.

Instead we should be asking: what should be the goal of public policies be at dealing with homelessness America, and what are the most effective methods of achieving that goal?

While ultimately there is no "right" answer to these questions given the diverse causes and needs of the homeless population, any significant progress in resolving them depends upon a collective response on the part of all American citizens. Only in this way will it be possible to truly provide the type of social activism and national "continuum of care" that is necessary to combat the continuing problem of homelessness.

tl;dr

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Voting closed 23

As some who has dumpster dived to feed me and my dog in the past, I'm glad you were able to give me some insight as to how I ended up that way. Kudos.

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Throw capecoddah into the mix as well, among others. The majority of posters here desire nuanced, fact based discussions generated by thoughtful posts like the one upthread. Guys like Riccio and cspecoddah don’t care about that. They just want to stick their finger in someone’s eye and rant on their personal soapboxes. In short, people like riccio have reduced the quality of discussion and camraderie of the comment section here - something your registrsstjon and moderation process several years ago attempted to improve. It’s a bummer.

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Voting closed 11

While I certainly appreciate your sentiments and am perfectly fine with your utilizing this forum, yes forum, to air your grievances,why not address me on your apparent problems with me as I post?

I can't speak for Mr. Gaffin personally, but he has voiced his concerns about some of my posts and I have been a member here for over nine years.I also took the last few years off from here and came back using my real name, you?

Yes, bummer, man.

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You might want to read the article. None of the 13 interviewed are homeless.

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Voting closed 36

.... 3 or 4 sleep outside in doorways, etc.

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5 are homeless.

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Seven of those interviewed lived in a supervised shelter setting (the general qualification to be in these facilities is no other alternative) and five lived outside.

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Many refuse to stay in the shelters, group homes. Lack of privacy is one reason. Fear of being robbed of their earnings from panhandling is another.
Plus many refuse their meds and prefer to have a cocktail or two.

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THIS GUY!

Oops. Still, the two interviewed had housing. Hence, my confusion.

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Many refuse to stay at shelters or group homes.

One reason, lack of privacy. Another reason many of these residences are dry, meaning you cannot come in drunk or high.

Another reason, safety concerns such as being robbed of their earnings from panhandling.

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Here’s a tip - stop counting other people’s money.

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Sorry but this article doesn't really add any insight.

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I found it interesting and informative. I was surprised how much education most had gotten -- all but one made it through high school and some had gone to college.

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I think there may not be enough appreciation for the way marginalized people use panhandling as a tool for much needed and otherwise unavailable social interaction, which the article illustrates. I almost never give cash to panhandlers (hardly ever have any) but when someone greets me (politely) I usually respond.

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I've often been curious as to the life stories of the people I see panhandling. This was very interesting. I am pleased to hear that none of them are homeless and have their basic needs being taken care of. It's also good to read that they have goals and aspirations. The next question then is how do we help them progress? We clearly need more jobs for people in these kinds of situations. I think everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to.

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They have jobs. Panhandling. They consider panhandling work. Many years ago while working in an institutional setting, we had a client who had been there for a while.
He was fed, cleaned up, provided psychiatric and medical care.
When it came time for discharge he demanded his filthy ragged clothing back that he had on when he was admitted. We told him it was discarded, and reminded him he had the new clothes and winter coat that we provided.
He became enraged and said "Are you crazy"? "I can't make any money in new clothes"!
He proceeded to tear up his new clothing so that he would look homeless.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

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Anecdata

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... his American Dream was to get out of your institution. Perhaps he had no other skills and nothing to sell. Survival is not enough for most.

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He was also provided with shelter placement and follow-up care appointments which he adamantly refused.

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Cool story, guest

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Lottery tickets and cigs? Shocker...

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.... hope. Cigarettes, despair.

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on the mathematically challenged.

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I’m sure you spend all your earnings judiciously and never squander it on some simple pleasures for yourself.

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I knew the JP I grew up in was gone when we became so fancy that we had multiple pan handlers.

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