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Posted on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Panhandler's paradise: One man's story, and what an Ann Arbor task force report has to say about panhandling

By Ryan J. Stanton


Gwyddion Storm, 42, solicits money from passersby on Liberty Street on Tuesday afternoon. A native of Columbus, Ohio, he says he has hitchhiked all over the country but has been panhandling on the streets of downtown Ann Arbor since last summer.

Ryan J. Stanton |

It's early in the afternoon and 42-year-old Gwyddion Storm has about five or six dollars collected in a faded cap that sits on the sidewalk in front of him.

In red marker, his cardboard sign reads: "Homeless & Wet. Anything Helps." He's perched in front of a store on Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, one of his usual spots.

"If you want to have any kind of spending money for tobacco, coffee, extra food, whatever, then you've got two choices," says Storm, who is homeless. "You can either collect cans, which is really time consuming and doesn't pay off that well … so panhandling is kind of the way I make my money. And I don't really consider myself a panhandler. I'm a professional beggar."

Storm isn't alone. Within a block of him, not far from the downtown Borders bookstore, are at least four other panhandlers, all of them casually asking passersby for spare change.

Storm knows some of them, and he knows their stories. He knows Ann Arbor's panhandling culture. He knows a number of them have mental illness or substance abuse problems, and some of the more aggressive ones, as he explains it, are just out "crack spanging."

"I'm not aggressive," Storm says. "I sit here with a sign and a hat. Those do the begging. I just say, 'Good morning, good afternoon, good evening' — whatever."

Pondering panhandling

Police Chief Barnett Jones said last summer that aggressive panhandling had become the No. 1 crime in Ann Arbor. The city reconvened a task force in September to look into the issue.

After six months of work, a 42-page report from the Mayor's Street Outreach Task Force was presented to the Ann Arbor City Council this week.

The report recommends revisions to the city's solicitation ordinance to expand the areas where panhandling is prohibited. It also requests the police chief and city administrator refocus police attention in the downtown area, with targeted foot patrols during busy hours.


A panhandler named J.J. juggles balls on Liberty Street last summer. He and some friends had been squatting in an abandoned house where they invested a small sum of money to make minor repairs. "On a good day, I can make $40 to $50 out here," he said. "Some days, I just get mean looks."

Ryan J. Stanton |

Perhaps more importantly, the task force is recommending the launch of a community campaign called "Have a Heart, Give Smart," an effort to address what it found are often the root causes of panhandling and homelessness: substance abuse and mental illness.

The campaign will encourage people to stop giving their money to individuals on the street, potentially feeding drug and alcohol addictions, and to instead make donations to local human service agencies that provide help for those in need.

"The truth is, if you want to make a difference in somebody's life, you want to help them get off the street, then yeah, that's the way to do it," said City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, who chaired the 12-member task force.

In talking with several panhandlers in Ann Arbor, the task force learned that not all panhandlers are homeless, though some certainly are. And each panhandler has his or her own story.

"Mostly, they're his stories," Briere said. "Many of them have mental illness as well as substance abuse problems. The big thing I learned, though, was that when offered help, they all had plans for how they were going to solve their problems, but none of them wanted help today."

The task force found some panhandlers work as part of a group, earning hundreds of dollars a day and paying rent. Some have territories, and many are familiar faces downtown.

Some are youths, attracted to a lifestyle they see as romantic. In some cases, those youths return to their parents’ homes each night. In other cases, they roam the streets all summer.

That was the case last summer when several teenagers and young adults came to Ann Arbor for an underground festival known as "Punk Week." Their aggressive panhandling caused many downtown businesses concern, and some of their behavior led to arrests.

The task force is recommending a new program of educational outreach, part of which suggests the University of Michigan’s orientation program for new students should include information about panhandling and safety net services available in the community. The task force plans to launch a web site called to direct donations to service providers like Dawn Farm, the Delonis Center, Home of New Vision and Food Gatherers.

The task force also has drawn up small cards that provide information on free services available to those in need, including food, shelter and sobriety help. The cards, expected to go into production in June, stress that panhandling is typically a symptom of a greater need.

Other promotional materials, such as bumper stickers and posters, will be printed and distributed with financial support from the DDA and downtown merchant associations.

The report acknowledges that panhandling is an expression of free speech protected under the First Amendment. So, the task force's approach wasn't to end the activity, but rather to better understand the unmet needs in the community, as well as how to balance the rights of those who panhandle with the rights of others who want to feel safe downtown.

The city's current solicitation ordinance prohibits panhandling in specific areas, such as on public buses, inside or near parking structures, from a person in a vehicle, from customers in outdoor seating areas, within 12 feet of a bank or ATM, or within 12 feet of Nickels Arcade, the Galleria and the Pratt Building on Main Street.

An ordinance amendment Briere plans to bring to the City Council next month would make it so panhandling also is prohibited in front of the downtown library or within 12 feet of a public alley.

The ordinance would continue to prohibit aggressive panhandling, which is described as moving within two feet of a person solicited, following and continuing to solicit a person who walks away, knowingly making a false or misleading representation when soliciting, soliciting in a manner that is intimidating or threatening, or obstructing the free passage of traffic.

The task force is requesting the city's community standards officers increase their interaction with the public and report any aggressive panhandling situations to police.

"We know we have limited police resources, but a lot can be done with simply better enforcement of existing ordinances," said Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council and a task force member.

A reason for staying

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Storm says he's traveled the country over, from one ocean to the other and back, five times, mostly hitchhiking. He came to Ann Arbor last summer after he heard a Michigan tourism ad on TV beckoning him to "seek a pleasant peninsula."

"This is the first time I've ever really settled in one place and really needed to do this for a long period of time," he says. "Most of the time I'm not in a place very long."


Storm says the generosity of the community has kept him in Ann Arbor despite the fact that he doesn't have a job or home here.

Ryan J. Stanton |

He's living in a tent north of downtown in a location he calls "the hidden arb." He says it's just him and another guy right now, but there are others who keep tents pitched there.

Storm is open about why he's homeless and panhandling. It's not because he has substance abuse problems, he says, though he does enjoy a cold beer at the end of the day. Rather, he says, it's because he has mental health issues.

"I have chronic depression and my psychiatrist tells me I also have a personality disorder, and what that basically means is that I've been fired from every job I've ever had," he says. "I've done everything from pumping gas to being a clerk in a nuclear power plant. But at this point, you know, 40 jobs in 20 years, you put that on an application and they're like, 'Uh, next.'"

Asked how much money he makes panhandling in Ann Arbor, Storm replies, "In the summertime, you can make $20 or $30 a day. In the wintertime, it's more like $5 or $10."

Storm says he's found Ann Arbor to be a friendly place, and the community's safety net services have kept him here. He regularly eats meals at the Delonis Center, and he relies on the mental health services of PORT, an outreach team that serves individuals in Washtenaw County who are homeless and those in the justice system who need mental health assistance.

"That's one of the main reasons that I really decided to stay in Ann Arbor," Storm says. "Back in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, they have nothing like that."

Storm says he's not interested in staying in a homeless shelter. "I don't like being there," he explains. "I've been in lots of homeless shelters everywhere and they're all institutionalized. It's like self-admitted jail. You know, you have no freedom once you go in there until you leave."

So, for the foreseeable future, the streets of Ann Arbor will continue to be Storm's playground and, like many others, panhandling will be his game.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

A free resource for those seeking sobriety is AA/ the Huron Valley Area Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous (734-734-482-5700, <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> (not sure if they'll let me post the contact info)). Meetings are free and there are over 300/week in Washtenaw County -- many within walking distance to downtown Ann Arbor &amp; Ypsi and a few at the Delonis shelter. There is also an active NA community and other 12-step programs in the area. Lots of people get sober while staying at the shelter, so that's not a valid excuse.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

When I read this story, I thought of the Sherlock Holmes story, &quot;The Man with the Twisted Lip.&quot;

Mike D.

Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

If you think we have a lot of panhandlers here, visit Portland. I swear half its population is panhandlers. It'll make even the most die-hard Ann Arbor Neo-Hippie feel like a Republican.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 11:20 a.m.

mike sure you are right . Im from Burlington vt, where we had a socialist mayor ( now in the senate, and he was overall a good mayor by the way), But re. your comment: one of his closest advisors was a restaurateur who-- after the town got a reputation as a sympathetic mecca for panhandlers,which started adversely effecting his business--, radically switched sides on that issue and started the &quot;westward ho&quot; movement..i.e. buying these folks a 1-way bus ticket out of town.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 1:19 a.m.

&quot;Many of these panhandlers are war veterans &quot; Riiiiiight. - because, that is, after all what their sign says, right? They are also out of gas because that is what their sign says They are sober because that is what their sign says They will also work for food because that is what their sign says They are also homeless because that is what their sign says They are also leaving town because that is what their sign says They also have car problems because that is what their sign says The only one I ever believed said: &quot;Why lie, I want a beer.&quot; I gave him a couple of bucks for not treating me like a gullible fool.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:59 a.m.

Actually, vets are overrepresented in the homeless population, but apparently not really in Michigan. Here's a link to an actual report on it from 2009 if anyone is interested: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;context=dennis_culhane</a> . Most homeless people have real, legitimate problems that they may never be able to overcome. That being said, I don't think you can make the assumption that every panhandler is homeless (because as we've seen and as this story describes, they aren't).


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

Right on.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:42 p.m.

I want to know where the &quot;hidden arb&quot; is.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:11 a.m.

Take a walk down the rabbit hole, north of the rails, about 60 to 80 meters to the west of the Amtrak station. You just might stumble upon it. In the interest of safety, use the buddy system.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 10:48 p.m.

The Kroger on Plymouth also needs to set a firmer policy about &quot;fundraising&quot; in their lobby. It's one thing to sell Girl Scout cookies in their lobby, and quite another thing to have a woman with a hand printed cardboard sign about needing money for some operation sitting there with a bucket. There is no way to know if it's legitimate, and even if she is in need, aggressively asking shoppers going into and out of the store for money is not the right approach and should not be allowed. It's no different than the signs that the homeless carry around downtown or hold at intersections. I personally don't care for any organization asking for money as I go into or out of a grocery store, but it seems to be increasing, whether it's the Girl Scouts, a school car wash, a school candy bar drive, or whatever, but at least these are legitimate organizations. Individual people holding hard luck signs are not necessarily legitimate and there are charities and organizations in the area to assist people down on their luck.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

Panhandling needs a comprehensive solution, but these aggressive guys need to be taken off the streets. Shoppers and walkers need to be able to walk down a city street minding their own business without being harassed by panhandlers. Giving them spare change is the worst thing that pedestrians can do, it only encourages them to continue their illegal activities. This problem extends far beyond the downtown area: yesterday, I was at Aldi at the corner of Maple and A2-Dexter Rd, and there were 3 panhandlers aggressively asking people for money as they went into and came out of the store. In addition, I am tired of going to Arborland and being approached by panhandlers in the parking lot as I am going to my car, or when I try to enter stores there. As soon as the weather is warmer, there are more and more of them around, and I think there needs to be a crack-down on them. They also &quot;work&quot; the parking lots at Meijer and Lowe's on Carpenter Rd as well as the intersection of Huron Parkway and Fuller/Geddes. Enough! Residents have a right to shop and walk and drive around without being panhandled and harassed. Yes, there is a huge problem with homeless individuals, across this country and in other countries. But each city needs to take steps to keep them out of the commercial areas where they are harassing people. Homelessness is a terrible problem, but allowing these people to panhandle is not the solution. As long as A2 looks the other way, more and more of them will migrate here from other places. The city needs to step up enforcement of commercial districts and respond when there are complaints. A2 has a homeless shelter and churches provide free meals around town, which is more than many communities provide. And still these guys harass people in commercial areas. It's time to crack down!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 9:54 p.m.

I forgot to mention this earlier. About a year and a half ago I was at the Cueter Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership. I saw a guy that is always at the Ann Arbor Saline Rd. off ramp and this same guy you also see at the Geddes Rd. off ramp. He jumps back and forth from those locations. If anyone gets off at Ann Arbor Saline Rd. or Geddes Rd. more than likely you have seen this guy. After he left I was talking to the salesman and he said that guy was there to purchase a brand new car and he was paying cash. &quot;Asked how much money he makes panhandling in Ann Arbor, Storm replies, &quot;In the summertime, you can make $20 or $30 a day. In the wintertime, it's more like $5 or $10.&quot; I don't believe this one bit. He makes a living off of people feeling sorry for them. If he said that he was making between $200-$500 a day people wouldn't feel as sorry for him. My point is that a lot of these people do this as a scam. They make money off of people feeling sorry for them and they make a lot. I never give them money.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:32 a.m.

genetracy, D.T.S.!


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:19 a.m.

genetracy, You have to be joking.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

meh, this is nothing new. I've been in the Ann Arbor area for about 10 year now, and panhandling has always been around, just like any major city (of course, which Ann Arbor is not). However, as the cost of living in Ann Arbor has risen, so have the number of panhandlers. If I were homeless I would panhandle in Ann Arbor too! You've got a bunch of wealthy ex-hippies and a bunch of students from increasingly wealthy families walking the streets on a daily basis...that is a perfect storm for panhandling! Get over yourself Ann Arbor, I remember when parts of downtown A2 were actually dangerous and the subcultures were the norm. Face it, you are essentially another Birmingham, MI with a &quot;we are so subversive&quot; complex. Sorry...but all of the radicals, artists, and revolutionaries moved away, or at least moved to Ypsi. IMHO, the A2 panhandlers (some of which I've stopped and had conversations with) are smart about what they're doing. They know they can feed off the rich who fancy themselves open-minded and liberal.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:40 a.m.

&quot;They know they can feed off the rich who fancy themselves open-minded and liberal.&quot; Right on! The liberals are getting prayed upon. They are the perfect target in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 8:41 p.m.

^ For sure!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

City leadership needs to manup and run the bums out of town!!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

&quot;Food and shelter in my opinion, are basic human rights.&quot; - AtticusF Food and shelter may be a basic human right, but it is not an entitlement... Self preservation is a basic human right, I don't expect anyone else to do it for me, though any assistance is welcome. That's the difference always missing from the first sentiment.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.

Addressed with Self preservation is a basic human right, I don't expect anyone else to do it for me, though any assistance is welcome.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

Then you would certainly agree that these folks have the right to self preservation via pan-handling?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Many of these panhandlers are war veterans (who developed mental illness a result)...They are human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I don't give to panhandlers, but I donate to Ozone House and Food Gatherers.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

Well my father is a vet and he feels differently. His father had PTSS from WWII and struggled his whole life with mental illness. My father served in Vietnam and saw first-hand how easily you can develop mental illness. If you are mentally ill, you don't always know that you need help. And the VA is not all a matter of fact my father (a physician) does not understand how come the assistance for Veterans is not offered at the major hospitals since the best doctors tend to avoid working at the VA. I believe we should do whatever we can do to help those who fought so that we can refuse to give to panhandlers or our 5 dollar latte at Starbucks.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:19 p.m.

Then why don't the veterans that I know have anything nice to say about them??? They tell me that as long as you need help, the VA will do whatever it can. The facility in A2 is one of the top in the country for many in patient and out-patient services. Just offer them a free lunch and a ride to the VA and see how quick they tell you to go away.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

For those posters who are so enamored of these panhandlers, their alleged &quot;rights&quot; and their assorted maladies and excuses, perhaps if you offered them meals and lodging in your home, they would not be a public nuisance.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.



Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

This was a good article and very informative.

John Spieser

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

I remember the days of &quot;Shakey Jake&quot;, &quot;Charlie &amp; Eddie&quot; and &quot;Supertramp.&quot; These guys weren't just panhandlers, they were Ann Arbor celebrities. Jakes early days of panhandling were so successful that he blossomed into his own business! Charlie and Eddie were loved by everyone! The mysterious Supertramp admired for his resourcefulness. Heck, people would brag after visiting A2, &quot;I met Shakey Jake&quot;! Times are a-changin'


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

You mean &quot;One Arm Eddie&quot; from West Park. Was he not the guy who amputated his arm with a pocket knife?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

I loved Shakey Jake, and gave him many a dollar when I was in high school. Those guys were totally different birds than the ones today.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:33 p.m.

Jake was never a panhandler. He may have played guitar and accepted money but rarely. I knew Jake well and he would never condone what is going on along our sidewalks. Jake did not drink alcohol nor did he have any mental illness.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

It seems to me that all of the &quot;Just Say No&quot; advocates here haven't been out on Main St. and State St. lately to see how aggressive and frightening some of these panhandlers have gotten. Trying to visit a few used bookstores earlier this year, I had no less than 3 panhandlers who blocked my way, yelling at me, badgering me for money. I have severe anxiety. I don't have the ability to tell them no, because once someone rushes at me, yelling, intimidating me, I can barely breathe, and it's all I can do not to turn around and flee. I don't believe in being hateful or angry, as some of the commenters here have labelled that anyone who believes this is a problem, but I do think that something needs to be done. Until then, the homeless ARE driving customers away from downtown businesses, because I can't risk my health by becoming a victim to these people again.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

No one should ridicule your anxiety, BT, ... but if it does present an issue for rational and calm social interaction with strangers, then it's not really only the beggars fault, right? I have also NEVER seen any panhandler in Ann Arbor act aggressively. getting in front of someone to beg for change really doesn't constitute aggressive behavior to me. Desperate and annoying, certainly. But I am inclined to believe that many if not most of the accounts of &quot;aggressive and threatening&quot; behavior by panhandlers are really just exaggeration due to social anxiety issues. Which could happen from interacting with almost anyone, not just the homeless.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:14 p.m.

Hey BT, as a person who has lived in the A2 area all of my life I can see your concern. I wish some of these wonderful, giving, PC repliers would actually read about anxiety and realize that they are ridiculing you for your mental health issue and it's very real health effects. All the while they are telling us to be more tolerant of the beggars that are causing this issue to surface at this level.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

No, not exaggerating. Wish I was. My anxiety doesn't prevent me from allowing others to exercise &quot;free speech.&quot; It does prevent me from shopping downtown anymore, because of aggressive panhandlers in the area. Have a lovely day, Atticus.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

wow, you haven't seen the world is round either, right? Maybe that's an exaggeration?

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

BTPud, if your anxiety prevents you from allowing some to exercise their right to free speach, I'm sorry. Also, I work at a block away from Main St., and I have never seen the type of behavior that you claim to have seen. Perhaps you're over exaggerating?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Clearly the panhandling population is a mixed should be the responses to them. Some are clearly mentally ill., and are ill served ( as is the larger society) by the state's mass dumping , a number of years ago , of institutionalized inmates. Such people can be a danger to themselves and others and , although deserving of compassion and treatment, should not be viewed as nothing but opportunities to show our own personal saintliness and rectitude ( ala some posters here) ... And yes...unarguably they congregate in places where the pickings are good, as do all species from homo sapiens to 'columbidae' ( ('pigeons' ,that is) and will likely vacate when the pickings are sparse. Others are less deserving of toleration because of obnoxiousness , whether fueled by elective substance abuse , laziness or whatever.* In either case , those who respond aggressively to a simple &quot;sorry, no!&quot; ( when soliciting) are a problem that needs addressing. ----------------- * among the 'whatevers' may be, as the article notes, a romanticized view of panhandling'/ hoboing/ being 'on the road' etc....thanks to the folk- heroization of people like woody guthrie, jack kerouac and assorted 'gypsy rovers' of folksongs. well...a guitar or other performance skill ( juggling, fire eating, etc) might make some of this more palatable. In fact , there's an idea for panhandlers and their apologists; i.e. low cost or free performance clinics to turn unromantic 'bums ' into 'street entertainers' win.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:49 p.m.

Is there anyone else here completely annoyed that this state can not retain public university graduates, but we seem to have no problem attracting out of state people in need of social services?

Common Sense

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

I give my money to local human service agencies and local churches and not to panhandlers. They are most appropriate to direct the money/resources to those in need. I would suggest that panhandling be outlawed in A2. Instead, I would support with my taxes some type of work fare &amp; housing assistance program run and coordinated by a local human sevice agency. There is a need to clean up streets, help elderly residents, assist handicapped, clean up parks, riverfront, etc. I am sure there are many other needs that could be identified too. Panhandlers, etc. could be offered an opportunity to earn money, hopefully at a minimum wage, rather than just by begging. The homeless will always be amongst us. We need to help them out in a more meaningful way than just throwing money in a paper cup!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

while eating outside at one of the main street restaurants, i had one panhandler walk thru tables and get in my face. he looked somewhat violent and i have actually seen a story on him being arrested for harrassment. i have no idea why i was singled out. the waiter did nothing but stand and stare. guess what? i don't go there anymore. i also don't go to the downtown Borders for the same reason. one might say i am &quot;letting them win&quot;, but there are plenty of other businesses i can give my business to. bash away.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

I had an experience like that near the diag. The panhandler walked past me, asking for money as he walked, and when I declined he turned around and screamed obscentities at me. He had such a violent expression on his face and in his body language that I was actually afraid that he was going to attack me.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:47 p.m.

scowl/ crazy eyes.....i guess you'd know it if you'd see it. unless you're trying to get all PC on me.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

How does one &quot;look somewhat violet&quot;?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

The money is ultimately used for drugs and alcohol


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

You can peruse the web, but here are some links. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The issue is the same in the rest of the western world.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

reference, please?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Not &quot;every&quot; but most... Many studies have been done on this subject. When you get free food and shelter you spend your money on alcohol and drugs, which is a primary reason you are homeless to begin with. &quot;A survey by Change for the Better showed that 7 of 10 panhandlers used change to buy drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. .&quot;


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

how could you possibly know that about each and every panhandler?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Just another reason not to go downtown.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Ok, the money these people make is way off! My dad's friend told us that one of his friends does this at the highway off ramps and he said the guy can make between $200-$500 a day. So if you make that much money doing that at the off ramps do you really think they are going to look for a job?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

All I wish is if someone finally gave that 50 cents to &quot;Crutches&quot;...


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4 p.m.

You think it's bad now...heh.. wait until the government is through gutting the support systems for those with disabilities, those with mental illness. Add to that the number of soon to be unemployed public workers, teachers, and policemen, and the problem is going to get worse. And, for those of you who are comparing the homeless to pigeons, I'm impressed by your compassion and humanity. I have come to the conclusion that if you want to draw the dregs of humanity into one spot, just open an internet discussion forum attached to a news organization.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4 p.m.

from the story...Storm says he's found Ann Arbor to be a friendly place, and the community's safety net services have kept him here. .... &quot;That's one of the main reasons that I really decided to stay in Ann Arbor,&quot; Storm says. &quot;Back in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, they have nothing like that.&quot; EXACTLY, if you build it they will come. I have nothing against helping those that need help, however there are many organizations that are worthy of donations. panhandling should not be tolerated and their should be an ordinance against ALL panhandling within city limits.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

So easy to spew out hateful comments thinking it's clever or funny. I'm guessing they are from people with zero experience with a mentally ill person in their family....and so they are unaware of the pain and suffering involved for the mentally ill person and for the family trying to keep them safe but unable to control their behavior. I would chose to believe that's the case rather than think the comments are made by people who have had a mentally ill person in their family and consider them a lower life form than a pigeon. Much harder to answer the question: What should we do about the mentally ill in our cities? Honestly.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Ellen, yes very sad. I don't know what should be done but I would love to see an article from a mental health professional suggesting a solution. People have no problem showing compassion to someone with cancer or an illness they can understand. Mental illness is tough because you can't see it and most of us don't know how to deal with it. I have seen parents who worry night and day because their mentally ill child is &quot;out there&quot; not taking their meds, and anything could happen to them. It is a torture no parent deserves.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Good q, Cash. I dont understand how the mental health system works. Would the first step be getting folks on medicaid and linked in the system for assistance (case worker)? Or do they first need housing? I would think homelessness must exacerbate the condition. I am also offended by comments on this story. I have loved ones suffering from mental illness, and altho they are high-functioning and employed, I've seen the devistating effects of the disease. It's difficult to think that people in my community could be so hateful.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

I still can't believe anyone considers the panhandlers of Ann Arbor as harassment, or even a problem, really. So there are a couple dozen folks out there asking for change. Who the heck cares? Give it to them if you want, or ignore them. It's pretty easy to do, and the reports of serious aggression and physical threats are really few and far between (or unnecessarily exaggerated by those who fear them). I am downtown many times per week and typically only have to say &quot;sorry, no&quot; maybe once or twice a month. I.E. No problem. At all. The vast majority of panhandlers are suffering human beings who probably don't feel very good about themselves for asking for your help. It is extremely disgusting to read some of the comments on this article of people who want to simply want to wipe them away and forget about the problem. If you grew up in a rough area, with poor schools, no public services, no money and deadbeat parents, then struggled with substance abuse or fell on hard luck, or suffer from mental deficiencies, you might end up this way too. It's really not a choice these folks have made to be on the street. Show some compassion people.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:48 p.m.

Show us how. Take one home with you and let him babysit your kids. Convince your boss to hire him.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

I'm shocked at the callousness of the first three comments above. Get real. This is a story about a real person, real human beings, with real problems, that won't go away just because you want to squirt some round-up on them and rub them into the ground. Addressing the problems of homelessness requires a nationwide, systemic approach in addressing health, addiction, and other psychological issues. Europeans figured this out long ago, and my European friends are always appalled at the level of homelessness in America and how we adopt an uncompassionate &quot;sink or swim&quot; attitude towards others. Which is why your precious America is turning into a giant casino and soon Donald Trump will be your third-world style dictator. Kudos to for reporting on a story of substance instead of asking us whether we like &quot;Five Guys&quot; or &quot;@Burger&quot; more.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

I vote for Five Guys


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:23 p.m.

Callous is ok by me. How about you play a flute, become the pied piper and take these people home with you. Most as stated in the article do not care about getting help. Why don't you give it a shot. My guess is you can find a whole bunch of bleeding hearts in Ann Arbor to assist you.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

Besides all the previous comments this is a good article. Something we all should be aware of and know the solution (s) would not be easy. Less then 200 hundred years ago there was no social network nor laws to protect those unable to function in our ever more complex culture. Defining our own role in this problem is an individual decision; but we are all part of it.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

The Panhandlers on State Street are not just a nuisance - the same aggressive panhandlers verbally assault passersby on State Street every day. The City is just electing to look the other way on this issue - phooey that more social services will help - these people should be required to get business licenses and should pay taxes on their income. The City of Ann Arbor would never allow a retail cart or stand to be built on the sidewalk without these requirements - why are these panhandlers allowed to 'do business' on the public thoroughfare without restriction. I personally get harassed every day as I walk from one work location to another. It's disgusting. This week I started a new response - to the one smartass who always yells at me 'HOW ABOUT SOME CHANGE - how about 20 dollars?&quot; Now instead of a simple &quot; no&quot; , I say : &quot;How about you get a job?&quot;

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Gene, the point I was trying to make was that for one reason or another, these people are often unable to get a job. And due to this fact, shouting &quot;get a job&quot; at them is not going to help the situation...It's only going to make you feel better if degrading a fellow human being is something that gives you pleasure.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:44 p.m.

Atticus, what planet do you live on? 99% of these people could not handle a job if you gave them an apartment, gave them a daily wake up call, drove them to work everyday, provided three meals, and drove them home at the end of the day. If holding a job was so easy for them, then they would probably be working at one.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

really? that's not very nice or tolerant of a fellow human being, fallen on hard times. I think in the article above, it mentions that this particular man has been employed, but his mental health issues eventually lead to his dismissal. I do hope that you &amp; those you love never have to suffer from either mental health problems nor homelessness.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

If you are so interested in this person getting a job, then why dont you hire him? And if someone asking you a simple question is harrassment, then you have no business walking the streets. Also, you have every right to be a mean, angry person. And to say angry, mean spirited remarks to the homeless... But thankfully, alot of other people care enough about their fellow human beings to do the right thing.

Marshall Applewhite

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

Does it bother anyone that this man left Columbus(a city of about 1 million people) to panhandle in Ann Arbor? A city with 100,000 residents is a better place for beggars to make money than a major city. People of Ann Arbor: Stop feeling so guilty every time you walk past one of these people. Grow some backbone for once.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor is the city that feels &quot;Guilty&quot; for everything! I love the city of Ann Arbor but the far left people are ridiculous!

Marshall Applewhite

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 7:23 p.m.

@ Stephen Haha, obviously it's much better here. However, when a city with 1/10th the population is more profitable for beggars, we're reaching the point where the homeless are being coddled. No wonder the subject of the story has been here for more than a year, with no end in sight.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

It is, after all, Columbus he was talking about. Of course it is better here than in that snake pit down south.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:41 p.m.

How many people that are disgusted by panhandlers have waked even a block in their shoes? As mentioned by others, panhandling is protected by the First Amendment and is a very basic form of capitalism. I am willing to bet that most of those disparaging the beggars are also those that trumpet the Constitution and Free Markets over any form of socialism. So, on one hand they will not pay for social services and on the other hand they do not want these poor folks to be able to exercise free speech and their right to earn an income in the way they can. Interesting neo-conundrum.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

Perhaps you are not aware of the definition for capitalism? cap·i·tal·ism ? ?/?kæp?tl??z?m/ Show Spelled[kap-i-tl-iz-uhm] –noun an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. There's a connotation of an exchange of goods or services for money involved. Panhandling does neither, so how can it be a form of capitalism?

Dante Marcos

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

Is it just me, or has a commenter here likened homeless human beings to pigeons? I find that reprehensible. And, I should add: if some of the more brutal of Governor Snyder's legislation is enacted, there are going to be a lot more people without homes, and panhandling. Here is a simple recommendation for Ann Arbor residents driven to rage by someone not having a home, and trying to stay alive: if a panhandler asks you for a donation, you can simply say, &quot;I prefer not to. Have a nice day, though.&quot;

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

I've lived in Ann Arbor for over 30 years, and the homeless have been around for all of those years, and probably more. The downtown business owners were perfectly aware of the homeless population when they CHOSE to open a business in Ann Arbor. So please stop useing the excuse of the homeless driving away business. They have just as much of a right to be there as you and me. And please don't suggest that my tax dollars be spent on building jail cells to house these people...As a kind caring person, I would rather my tax dollars go to feeding and housing these people.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 1:32 a.m.

They have every right to be there. Maybe. But there is no question I have the right to pass them by!

Christopher LeClair

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

What's the big deal with having panhandler's around? I have never found being asked for a dollar or my spare change to be &quot;harassment.&quot; Let people do what they want to do. If it bothers you, just be that person who won't even acknowledge their existence when they ask you for money. There are quite a few professions out there that are a tad bit worse for society than these people...


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:40 p.m.

Atticus and Christian. Soulmates forever.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

Atticus F; You obviously have never had to take &quot;the class&quot;. This is why everyone now looks at the floor where I work. Maybe forehead is OK too.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

eyeheart, if being looked at or &quot;ogled&quot; is so offensive to a person, then I would suggest that person not go out into public.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Are you kidding.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:15 p.m.

....and some women don't mind being ogled, but some do. So, you better not do it.

Christopher LeClair

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

My thoughts exactly Atticus!

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

Thumbs up Christopher. I've lived in A2 for a long time, and I have never found these people to be a problem. I feel like alot of these people here have a bit of a nasty side. And that they are so judgemental, that they simply cant stand to look at someone who does not conform to their way of life.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council is laying off police and firefighters and cutting other constituent services. The County has (like Humpty dumpty) simply decided that words mean what they want them to mean, so that &quot;public safety&quot; relates only to the homeless and menatally ill. [See Conan Smith's piece of work] When will our LOCAL leaders quit treating money they collect from LOCAL taxpayers as a slush fund that they can distribute to their favorite charities, and instead use that money to fund the runnign of the essential services of government? PS -- Driven on our roads lately?

Yeah buddy

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Good to see that Michigan tourism commercials are working.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

When I lived in Saline, I used to give money to the Ann Arbor panhandlers every single time I was in downtown Ann Arbor in hopes that by giving them money they would stay in Ann Arbor. It looks like it was a good strategy!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:25 p.m.

Your logic is flawed. Why would anyone go to saline?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Tolerating panhandling and seeking solutions such as giving to agencies that help is beyond me. Anyone seen giving them money ought to be chastised. This guy in the article needs to go back to columbus. Drain their system of resources. I know if I had a business in the campus or downtown area with panhandlers accosting my customers and for that matter anyone I would chase them away. I cannot think of any logical reason why any local business or resident should have to put up with panhandlers.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

@a2musicman...roundup isn't a bad idea. What about bus tickets to some place else. Maybe send them to some European country that will take care of them better than us. Unlikely to find one. I care about our local business people, I care about Ann Arbor, I care about what my tax dollars are spent on. I do not care to support panhandlers and homeless people that come here because of the bleeding hearts in this city that believe we should all keep dumping money on these people. As stated in the article most don't want or seek help. How about you play a fiddle, be the pied piper and take them all home with you.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:21 p.m.

Get real. This is a story about a real person, real human beings, with real problems, that won't go away just because you want to squirt some round-up on them and rub them into the ground. Addressing the problems of homelessness requires a nationwide, systemic approach in addressing health, addiction, and other psychological issues. Europeans figured this out long ago, and my European friends are always appalled at the level of homelessness in America and how we adopt an uncompassionate &quot;sink or swim&quot; attitude towards others. Which is why your precious America is turning into a giant casino and soon Donald Trump will be your third-world style dictator.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

The presence of these people discourages some from going downtown to dine and shop. And yet the City's services and policies that are taxpayer funded, encourages panhandlers to show up. If I were a merchant I would be outraged.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

TC, the homeless have been part of A2 for years. I think the purpouse of this article is to take money out of the pockets of our cities poorest people, and put it into the pockets of non-profits who intent to squander it on 25 million dollar 'affordable housing' projects. Non-profits have a intrest in procuring as much funding as possible, reguardless of weather the money is well spent.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:46 p.m.

I think one of the reasons Ann Arbor is so good for panhandling is the student population. I remember being a freshman and quite frankly terrified of some of the people out there, especially at night. I would give them money but sort of in the same way you give a schoolyard bully your lunch money after he's shaken you down for it. After a while I learned how to say no, but in the early days it was intimidating. It just annoys me that there is a segment of the population who are just doing it because they don't want to do anything else (not because of mental health/substance abuse problems). It's funny that we regulate how and where businesses can operate, but if we view the psuedo-homeless/homeless-without-a-cause as small business owners we find that they have very few limitations on where and how they can operate (even with the rules against aggressive panhandling). Plus, most of the rules aren't even enforced (such as the guys on the off-ramps -- isn't that soliciting from people in cars?). Even the hot dog cart guys have to pay for a permit every year. What gives? Again, I'm all for supporting organizations that help provide support for those struggling with addiction and mental illness. I've volunteered time and money to them and will continue to do so. But in my mind, giving money to people who clearly have not shown skill for managing it is naive and enabling and only compounds the problems.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

Proverb: &quot; Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him a lifetime.&quot;


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

Now, if we could just find a homeless, panhandling teacher who is considering going on stike and also uses medical marihuana....then, by god our hit count would go through the roof.


Fri, Mar 25, 2011 : 2:35 a.m.



Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

Agreed. And yet we both still clicked on the story. Sigh-


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

Forgot to add - the homeless panhanling teacher who may or may not go on strike, needs to ride his/her bike to the medical marihuana clinic. Hopefully said clinic will not start on fire, because lord knows how long it will take the remaining firefighters to get there.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

I have worked downtown near campus for almost 20 years, I have seen the same people all that time, while new ones come and go. The students and visitors are the most gullible to their plea. Frankly I find the tolerance for this, eroding the overall quality of downtown for its citizens, and guests. I personally know people who have been attacked physically and verbally by panhandles. Now that it is warming up, you can hardly walk a few blocks and not get approached by someone panhandling at every corner. I wish I was exaggerating but I am not. I would like to see downtown a destination for families and visitors,instead it a destination for the homeless.....


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

So many issues it really cannot be covered in one article. Mental illness - the elephant in the room that we are unable to get our arms around. Addiction - another serious issue that mixed with mental illness is a disaster. Wealth vs poverty - Ann Arbor could be seen as the Michigan Money Mecca. Just thinking that there probably aren't many panhandlers in a poor town. Remember the current police chief quoted in this article used to drop homeless people in Ann Arbor. Tough vs soft - Poor guy! or Get the bum outta here! Two ways of viewing the issue, maybe neither one is spot-on. I'm curious.....if the panhandlers are on UM property are they allowed? Or are they taken back downtown?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Well, we know they get taken from Inkster to here anyway.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

The unfortunate part of this story is that the performance of panhandling has been predominately non-union. Until collective bargaining is gained by the unorganized panhandlers and other street performers, I believe the fate and wellbeing of such individuals will be precarious at best.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

I for one don't understand why people are so against panhandlers making profit... it capitalism at its finest!


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

People need to understand that by giving them money it just makes the problem worse. If they didn't get money from begging they'd go somewhere else. Make it a haven for them and they'll come from miles around, as attested by Mr Storm. We were in Santa Barbara a few years ago and the homeless/panhandlers seemed to nearly outnumber the other people...NOT a comfortable nor pleasant environment for anyone. If Ann Arbor would get to the extreme of &quot;protecting the rights&quot; of the panhandlers like they do in Santa Barbara my visits to downtown will come to an end along with bringing any out of town visitors we have to the area.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

&quot;The campaign will encourage people to.... make donations to local human service agencies that provide help for those in need....yeah, that's the way to do it,&quot; said City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, who chaired the 12-member task force.&quot; Storm says... the community's safety net services have kept him here....That's one of the main reasons that I really decided to stay in Ann Arbor,&quot; Storm says. &quot;Back in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, they have nothing like that.&quot; seems like a bit of a Catch 22.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.

I was thinking (sarcastically) that there aren't services for the mentally ill in Columbus because it's so common there....LOL.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

I love the name, Gwyddion Storm. Seems like he should have been destined for something greater...


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:40 a.m.

&quot;Video removed by user&quot;? Sheesh.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:01 p.m.

The video above you mean? It worked for me. Maybe it was just being loaded or something.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:15 a.m.

For what the state pays for these people to stay in the shelters in the area. Are more than what some residents pay on there section 8. The problem is Ann Arbor cost too much to live in unless you have section 8. And most of the homeless have no living needs, bed, couch, cooking needs ect.... Some places you donate to you do not give the full benefits to the home less. Yes I agree to some point the donations are down. But I had a real nice couch just wanted to up grade, do you think I could find someone to lift and haul it away. Had to get my son to do the work.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

Breadman You are SO right about the attempt to donate a couch! Try to donate a good clean piece of furniture or a working appliance and you get turned down. I'm old and I can't move it myself. What's up with that?


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 10:54 a.m.

I've been saying this for years. Everybody downtown thinks they are doing great things by giving these homeless money on the streets. Its great you want to help, but give your money to shelters and charities. Shelters only take sober, clean people so giving to them ensures your money is going to people that truly need it, not somebody looking for money to buy smokes, booze and drugs. Ann Arbor is getting the attention of homeless people everywhere as the best place for them to make money. Panhandlers are now everywhere - downtown, on just about every e-way off-ramp and the busy intersections. Walk down Main/Liberty/State on a summer night. You have get harassed by panhandlers on every corner. I had a friend come to town and they were blown away by all the beggars on every e-way ramp. We went downtown and it was even worse, to the point that she didn't even feel comfortable. It looks terrible to the outside world yet to the residents of the A2 area its become part of the scenery and everyday life. People wonder why Ann Arbor crime rates are on the rise. Many of these panhandlers are substance abusers and the last thing Ann Arbor needs is a bunch of cracked-out people sitting on ever corner.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

If you knew anything about substance abuse, you'd know that being sober is easier said than done for someone struggling with addiction, bunny. Addiction IS a disease. Also, I see your point about the rights of the staff and others at the shelter. However, I personally feel that there is not enough being done by some of these places (that are recieveing funding) to address the problems of addiction among the homeless.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

@atticus, you said &quot;I disagree with ONLY helping people who are sober. Food and shelter in my oppinion, are basic human rights.&quot; I assume that the reason they only want sober people staying there is because it is the right of the staff and the right of other people staying there to not have the drama associated with non sober people. Also, not being sober is a choice.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 3:47 p.m.

....but, as was pointed out by the homeless task for the are ALREADY enough places to get a meal in Ann Arbor, so that nobody needs to go hungry. Your money will not go to shelter no matter what. So, please, don't perpetuate that myth. It was debunked twice last week. With data.

Atticus F.

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

I disagree with ONLY helping people who are sober. Food and shelter in my oppinion, are basic human rights. I think there should be assistance provided for people who need help with substance abuse...But denial of basic neccesities in an attemp to punish people for not being sober, is no way to run a charity.


Thu, Mar 24, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Panhandling/begging is a problem. It can take your breath away. BUT, A2 is not unique. I haven't noticed it being any different from any other large city I've been in. I think we just don't think of ourselves as a large city in the same way. If your friend was blown away, I wonder if she had been to a big city recently - or thought A2 wasn't a big city.