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Posted on Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 6:30 p.m.

Panhandling in downtown Ann Arbor a concern at DDA meeting; action on skatepark grant delayed

By Ryan J. Stanton

Concerns that panhandling and other crimes may be on the rise in downtown Ann Arbor were aired today at a meeting of the Downtown Development Authority.

Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, said downtown residents have been complaining a lot more lately about aggressive panhandling along State and Liberty streets, including at Liberty Plaza, a small city park located at the corner of East Liberty and South Division streets.


Ray Detter, chairman of the Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, addresses the DDA governing board today.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Detter and others agreed that the problems, especially at Liberty Plaza, appear to be making a comeback, which Detter attributed to reductions in police patrols. Later in the meeting, DDA board members discussed the loss of downtown beat cops.

"We would all like bicycle patrols and beat cops restored," DDA board member Russ Collins said. "Safety is not only a statistic, but it's also a feeling and a sense of security, so proactive (police enforcement) or a presence can be beneficial."

Detter said Sloan Plaza, a high-rise residential condo development along East Huron Street, near Division Street, recently had an instance where a homeless person broke into the lobby and stole minor items, another case where a bicycle was stolen, and a "smash and grab" where a parked automobile was broken into. He said there also are increased reports of homeless people sleeping behind Sloan Plaza at night.

City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, told in a phone interview later that she is planning to introduce a resolution soon calling for the resurrection of a city task force to look at panhandling and other crime issues in the downtown.

"We have an increased number of homeless - that is not going away," Briere said. "Some aspect of that problem with the homeless contributes to the panhandling ... so both things need to be addressed."

A task force that was formed in 2001 is often credited by community leaders for curbing problems at Liberty Plaza and elsewhere in the downtown earlier this decade. The task force came up with the panhandling ordinance currently on the books in Ann Arbor, but a lack of enforcement downtown has some claiming it's not working now.

Briere said she's not sure if downtown beat cops are the answer.

"We can't solve whatever this problem may be by now saying we're going to throw money at it, because frankly we don't have money," she said. "We need to engage the community. We need to have businesses involved. We need to have the downtown residents involved."

In other action at today's DDA board meeting, a proposal to have the DDA kick in $50,000 for the Ann Arbor Skatepark initiative was tabled.

DDA board member Newcombe Clark, who is proposing the DDA support the skate park cause, pushed to table the agenda item before it could be discussed.

Clark learned before the meeting that the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, the nonprofit group trying to raise money to create a recreational area for skaters at Veterans Memorial Park, has decided against endorsing his resolution. That's because the resolution, in keeping with the DDA's mission to focus its resources downtown, asked that the $50,000 be spent within a quarter-mile of the downtown limits.

That rules out Veterans Park, but Clark said he was hopeful the DDA's money could be spent on signage or other skating-related facilities near downtown, while leveraging additional dollars from the county that could be spent at Veterans Park.

Trevor Staples, chairman of the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark, said last week he was "stoked that Newcombe is enthusiastic about the skate park." After a story appeared on and Staples received phone calls from community members, he posted additional comments on the skate park’s website this week.

"I feel that it’s important we point out that the Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark was approached by Newcombe Clark with the resolution for DDA funding that he wanted to bring for a vote before the DDA," Staples wrote. "The Friends of the Ann Arbor Skatepark declined to support the resolution because we could not figure out how the dollars could be used for the skate park, unless the skate park was moved. This is not an option."

Clark had a different story today.

"I was approached by the skate park, as other DDA members were, about possible funding from the DDA for their efforts," Clark said, adding that he was "stretching to find" a way for the DDA to support the project despite its location outside of downtown.

Clark argued that funding a facility for skateboarders in Ann Arbor — even outside the downtown boundaries — ultimately would benefit the downtown.

"Giving skaters a proper facility helps make our downtown safe and is less hard on the infrastructure," he said, characterizing it as a relatively small amount of money.

Clark said it's his intention to bring up his resolution for discussion at the next DDA Partnerships Committee meeting at 9 a.m. next Wednesday.

"Understanding that there is a prism that everything is looked through this time of year — and I can understand some of the trepidation that some of the board members have — I'd be certainly open to tabling it to Partnerships," Clark said.

DDA board member Roger Hewitt was the only one to voice an opinion on Clark's resolution, saying only that he had "a number of problems" with it.

Staples said the skate park committee spent more than a year working with city officials to find the most appropriate location for the skate park. He said he also has talked with DDA members about the viability of another skating spot downtown, but for now his group's focus is on securing funding for the skate park at Veterans Park.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Thu, May 19, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

I feel as though I should introduce myself first. I am 20 and have lived in Ann Arbor most of my life (with exception of this last year). The only problem I have ever had was when some drunken college guys kept following my friend and I around telling us how hot we where. The problem most of you are talking about is the homeless living here and asking for money. I wonder how many of you have actually spent the time to talk to any of them. They are for the most part people who made a couple of bad choices but had no one to help them get back on the right track. So then they just fall deeper into what ever whole they fell into and make more mistakes. Instead of penalising them for asking people for money we should make services more available to them so they can get off drugs have a place to live have food available and then education and then jobs. I know that takes time and money but that is the only way I can think of things are actually going to get better instead of just seeming better. Making it so they cannot ask people for money will only make most of them take it by force. Reading all your comments makes me wish I could stay here to improve this city which I will always consider home. But the weather stops me. As for the skate park build it please... Have students especially high school age have something more to do than go to college parties and drink I do not see the down side. Maybe even remodel liberty plaza for it??? I have faith that the skater can come up with the money using fund-raisers (Asking people for money in a socially acceptable way) to build it. When the skater are down town they will also most likely use the money they use to have to spend paying tickets to the city for skating to buy food and drinks from the near by stores which they so desperately need.


Wed, Sep 8, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

I have been repeatedly harassed by a panhandler who says he's collecting for a food drive. This man has been around for several years, but the first time he singled me out was in November 2008. He was standing in front of Borders, and to everyone else he was saying "Would you like to donate to the homeless food drive?" (or sometimes it's the "homeless soup kitchen"), but as soon as he saw me he started shouting insults and foul language. I went into Borders and told one of the managers there, and when she went out to talk to him, he insulted her, too. She called the police, but he went away before the police arrived. He bothered me again a few months later, when he was sitting on a bench at the corner of Liberty and Maynard, near Borders. This time he called me "retarded-looking", among other insults. Since then, I've been trying to avoid him whenever I can. But this year, on my birthday, I was going to dinner when I saw him sitting on a bench near Michigan Book and Supply. I crossed the street, but he shouted at me across the street, again calling me "retarded" and using foul language. I wanted to call the police right then, but I had a dinner reservation and didn't want to be late. After that, I tried to avoid him, but he always seems to be around these days, especially in the State and Liberty area. I've also seen him on campus and by Espresso Royale on South University. Just two weeks ago, I was having dinner at NYPD on William, when he sat down at an outdoor table and stared through the window at me. I told the man who was working at the cash register, and he went out and told him to go away. But when he left, he stuck out his tongue at me. I asked the man at NYPD if he knows of anyone else who's had problems with this guy. He said that he hasn't bothered anyone in the store, but that he's "sort of crazy". I have also spoken to several Borders employees about this man, and they've all said that his food drive is bogus. So far I have not been able to confirm this, though. (But, if he is working for a legitimate organization, I think they should be told that he insults people.) One Borders employee told me that I'm not the only person this guy bothers. I used to enjoy taking walks in the State Street area, but now, because of this man, I'm afraid to walk there any more, especially when I'm alone. I hope that I don't sound like I'm unsympathetic towards the homeless. I do feel sorry for them, and I used to give to panhandlers (but I stopped when they kept asking for more and more money, and got more and more aggressive). But this man has no right to harass people. After the incident on my birthday, I wrote a letter to City Council about this man, but I received no reply. About two months later, I sent a second letter, but so far I have not received so much as an acknowledgment in response to either letter. I heard that my first letter was discussed at a meeting, but I don't know what decision was made, if any. I certainly never heard back from City Council. I would also like to observe that, since the beat cops have been taken off the streets, I have noticed more panhandlers, and they have become more aggressive.


Sun, Sep 5, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

Also truffle, I'm so betting you work in the E.R. At the U.


Sun, Sep 5, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

Truffledog I have to completely agree with everything you say other than the cops in armored personnell vehicles. That was a pretty funny comment. The only problem is there is city and citizens outside the 10 Block downtown area that need and deserve the cops also. Not to mention a somewhat expedient response time. Unfortunately this requires the APV's. I totally agree with you regarding the beat cops downtown. I knew most of them and they know most of the business owners, pretty much all the bums and are so much more approachable than the cops in the cruisers. Unfortunately in our world, there needs to be a mix of both and the ones in the car generally response oriented while the ground pounders are more proactive.


Sun, Sep 5, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

Java Jolt is on to something--when street musicians are suppressed and panhandling is broadly legal creativity yields to mooching. A city with a range of street activities is vibrant, but no performance and all bums is a bummer. Dumb policies hurt cities more than panhandlers--for the millions squandered on underground parking, AA drops community policing bike patrols and beat cops. That is plain foolish and dangerous. Cops in cruisers are more like hostile occupying forces that won't leave their APV's- a waste of money. When every street person is known by name and story (where they live, case managers, drugs of choice, etc.) crime reduces and holding individuals responsible happens. A beat cop can arrest a lying panhandler for misrepresentation. This is NEEDED for the rambling crack users with the grandmothers in the broke down car waiting for dialysis in Kalamzoo...."Homeless" signers with housing should be prosecuted and maybe sued by actual homeless people for damages. Homeless and panhandlers are not interchangeable as many point out. I hate to cut everyone off (alcoholics will have seizures from DT's, run up a huge ER bill and than get discharged in 6 hours with no plan except keep drinking ) but I cannot compassionately perpetuate addiction. Aggressive free meal programs mean nobody in Downtown AA needs to panhandle for food. How about a local currency program of 50 cent scrip coupons redeemable for food? Hand a panhandler free meal coupons and see if you are helping or enabling! Signers at freeway ramps are rarely homeless. Good policing could help put them out of business for false solicitations.

Basic Bob

Sat, Sep 4, 2010 : 2:02 p.m.

I question why people would choose to live in a city and then want to make it just like the suburbs. Panhandlers, homeless, dope fiends, and wild young adults are all part of the atmosphere of downtown living. Anyone who thinks they _should_ feel comfortable walking alone downtown after dark is in serious denial of the risk they are taking. I infrequently give money to the panhandlers. I don't want to support their addiction. But then again, they may have underlying mental or physical illness and the drugs are helping. You never can tell.


Sat, Sep 4, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

i am unaware of any change in the recognized perimeter of the city of ann arbor. in new york, d.c., chicago etc agressive panhandling, doing crack at the playground and, in some cases, loitering are not tolerated. esp. not towards visitors. the easiest example is the times square clean up in nyc. ann arbor is not getting bigger. in fact, with all the losses and foreclosures the deuce has probably gotten just a little smaller. revenue is drastically lower than in beef years. we are now on a beer diet with a city council that has champagne taste. we dont need more parks (great strategy, newcombe. who is your consultant?), or public (f)art etc. we need police, firefighters, safer roads, maintenance of the public land. who on council has core needs as their agenda? i would like to know.


Sat, Sep 4, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

Maybe the DDA should do what other DDAs have done and hire private security to patrol downtown-

just a voice

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 8:04 p.m.

wow, I gave up trying to read all the comments, so much 'I don't go downtown any more because of the pan handlers', grow up people, ann arbor is getting to be a bigger city and the panhandlers come with that. Are you people all going to skip new york, LA and all the other major citys because you might get aproached by a panhandler?


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

sorry for typos. this ipad is a pain for typing.


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 7:53 p.m.

maybe if more of us would actually attend city council meetings we could get better results from the city, in re panhandling, beat cops etc? i am willing to orgabnize if you are willing to attend and maybe even engage by signing up for a couple of speaking minutes? to be taken seriously voices must be heard. if you are interested, please contact me at use the header'council.'


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 5:32 p.m.

So we have an ordinance, but its not enforced. It's interesting. My teen and his friend wanted to play guitar on the street during art fair. He was reqired to obtain a peddlers permit, insurance, etc. which just about makes it impossible to have any "legal" entertainment on the street anymore. Remember when Ann Arbor had more "flavor"? Panhandlers, on the other hand, need on permit, can get right in your face, offer no 'entertainment value' and that ordinance is NOT enforced....what's wrong with this picture???


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 4:19 p.m.

Not a few, speechless. More than a few. And Shakey Jake was an icon. Also, he was around in what, the early 80s? Thirty years ago? Long before this problem started. And he DID something to kind of earn the donations, and that's just what they were, donations. He didn't get in your face and demand you put something in his guitar case. He was well-known and well loved.


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

I think we're onto something. I hereby nominate "Crutches" to be Main street's first honorary "mime".


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 12:54 p.m.

The late Shakey Jake Woods was a regular panhandler, busker, and all-around presence on Main Street who, as I recall, also had a place to live for most of his later years. Having a mailing address was not something held against him back when he worked the sidewalks of downtown, and his legion of supporters and fans grew over the decades. Nobody complained to the DDA. If anyone had shown the temerity to insist openly that he get off the streets, they would deservedly have been run out of town themselves by a mob of disgusted downtowners wielding pitchforks and torches. So, I feel a significant issue with a portion of our contemporary panhandlers is related to their poor marketing. In years past, Shakey was complemented by a variety of buskers displaying varied degrees of musicianship, a regular street & alley dancer with boom box, and (to go further back) skilled jugglers and street theater actors on UM's diag. In contrast, a few among the current generation go an opposite route by choosing to behave in ways that reflect back the aggression, anger and coldness of the society around them.


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

ahhhh....that's right.... We had to compromise citizen security and safety to pay Neil Berlin's 125% pension for a glorious 5 years of toil and labor!! Thank Neil!!


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

beatcops downtown were discontunued because the city claimed it could no longer afford to keep them. this was used to milk two million dollars from the dda, with the promise to the dda that the city would reinstate the beatcops downtown. the city simply chose to ignore the promise and refuses to reinstate the beatcops. mayor hieftje should be taken to task over this and his continued blah blah about how safe ann arbor is. he should be verboten to rely on statements which compare ann arbor to any other place or to cite any lists ann arbor has been mentioned on. i would bet there isnt much to gloss over without those crutches. maybe arthur could lend him his?


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

Exactly.....@David has taken this discussion full-circle: * The DDA is right to raise this issue * Beat cops should NEVER have been removed from downtown * Former Chief Dan Oates proved community policing benefited panhandlers, homeless, business owners and why the heck was it discontinued. This needs to be restored immediately. The DDA money is no good for the development of downtown if safety is any issue at all.

David Cahill

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

What A2 needs is for the police to vigorously enforce our existing ordinance. Aggressive panhandling is against the law.


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 8:55 a.m.

What A2 needs is a District or location where Panhandlers and other nuisances can freely associate without Police retribution (Homeless Shelter?). However, prior to establishing such a place, Liberty Plaza should be shut down because it is so highly visible to incoming students, professors, tourist, and residents. My experience at Liberty Plaza is being confronted by a partially clothed, drunk woman in her 40s asking me for spare change last week. After I politely declined, she attempted to spit at me and my 4 year old daughter! Not a family friendly place!


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

And I forgot to add, they are whisked right through to the back. No waiting for hours in the dismal waiting room.


Fri, Sep 3, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

Has anyone thought of this? If a panhandler/homeless person is so drunk/high that they pass out or choose to sleep it off on a sidewalk or in the entranceway of a business (I've seen it happen at Sweetwaters) an ambulance is called. If the person in question cannot walk without support or is just plain passed out, the medics load him into the back of the ambulance and take him/her to UM ER, where they are given a bed to sleep it off. An IV is started because they are usually dehydrated and if they are unconscious, they are catheterized so they won't urinate all over the bed. When they come to, they vomit everywhere. And then given a meal. So, all you bleeding hearts out there, think of the fact that you are furthering thier addiction and using valuable resources as well before you give in to their demands.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 10:06 p.m.

I have a friend who is a sturdy looking male. He never gets aggressively approached. I am a female who does not look sturdy. I get aggressively approached all the time. The aggressive panhandlers know exactly what they are doing. They approach those who look vulnerable due to age, gender, body size, walking with a cane, or perhaps who have small children, carrying packages. They try to scare them into giving money. That panhandler is not a person who is among the most vulnerable. That's someone who is a predator. That's someone who is a predator, preying on those who are vulnerable. Atticus suggests that those of us who are vulnerable stay home. That becomes a problem for the local economy.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 8:22 p.m.

most of the panhandlers in ann arbor are not homeless. i have been on a first name basis with arthur, aka crutch for several years now. arthur has a monthly disability income. he also considers 60k in panhandling a'bad year.' this is straight from him. he has an apartment. he eats out at venues sich a s the greek on main and liberty. the young punks begging also are not homeless. they have the latest cell phones and sip coffees at starbucks and erc. they own cars and trucks and buses and rvs. truly homeless is what the delonis beds are there for. if you are sleeping on the street in ann arbor, it is not for lack of opportunity to move forward. panhandling is a profession for most people doing it in ann arbor. think about it, 60k is a bad year? how much do you take home?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 6:25 p.m.

@David Cahill is correct that many of these people are not homeless. For example, the guy with crutches discussed above is a Vietnam Vet who lives in public housing on Miller Road. The group of young people the police call the "Dirties" lives in a house on N. Main St. In response to @Atticus, I tried earlier to post with links to the volunteer site for St. Andrews and Delonis Center but they got blocked by @Ryan Stanton for some unknown reason. So here is the post without the links: St. Andrews church on N. Division serves breakfast every morning of each day of the year. Delonis Center offers free lunch and dinner to all comers each weekday and free lunch each weekend day (also breakfast only to residents in the shelter each morning). Several churches in town offer dinners on the weekend days that Delonis doesn't, on a rotating schedule (Delonis has this info and informs the homeless where the meals are). This information is well known by the homeless and panhandlers in Ann Arbor. I haven't yet met a panhandler or bunko artist who when questioned doesn't ultimately admit they are well aware of where these meals are. I encourage anyone who wants to help the homeless eat, to volunteer at either Delonis or a church program and there is always a need for more hands to help.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 5:55 p.m.

"... I get the sense that people here are painting with a broad brush, trying to act as if all homeless are a bunch of lazy alcoholics, who simply dont want to work." Well, this is what some locals like to do. It can take only a handful of regular panhandlers with poor marketing skills to justify broad-brushing an entire population demographic, especially if it's comprised of folks on the low end of the economic scale. Placing blame on the homeless and/or street begging also distracts attention from a nearly non-managed national economy which arbitrarily generates homelessness in the first place. Ann Arbor's level of panhandling and homelessness has been quite strictly minor league in comparison to San Francisco, which continues to remain a prime tourist destination. The city and the DDA ought be able to assist with any issues without relying on a heavy deployment of uniformed personnel. Over the years, I've often given change when asked, but will quickly refuse on the infrequent occasion I'm approached in a demanding manner. Hmm... I do like the idea of DDA helping turn Liberty Plaza into a skate park.

David Cahill

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 5:35 p.m.

People should not confuse being homeless with panhandling. There is some overlap, but not all panhandlers are homeless and not all homeless are panhandlers.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

Atticus - I just want to make the small point that the few guys in question seem to be more comfortable getting more demanding with females. They're not as afraid to get punched in the face for being a total jerk, and intimidation works pretty well in their favor. When I worked on State at Great Wraps we had 3 frequent panhandlers that I watched. Two work in a pair (one is Ronnie who was just featured in his own arrest article this week). The other who goes by Cotton is the one who dresses "decently" and asks for change as if he's an auctioneer - I am positive that a lot of you know him just by that description. *BUT* the third man, the type to sit with a cup and quietly ask for change, broke my heart. He never asked me for anything even though we chatted occasionally on my smoke breaks. He spent his change on FOOD but I wouldn't care if he had a few drinks at night so he could manage to fall asleep wherever he could find. I would definitely need to in that position! The homeless are people and you can not say they are "all" anything. There are a number of ways to become homeless, and for some it is impossible to obtain any upward mobility for a myriad reasons.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

I wasn't making a case for punishing people for past mistakes. I was making a case for not perpetuating them.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

Javajolt, I dont care about punishing people for their past behavior, or holding people acountable for past mistakes...Those are the concerns of an angry person who takes pleasure in the misery of others. My main concern is ending human misery reguardless of who's to blame. But I guess some people here are simply unable to understand that.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:22 p.m.

I understand your altruism...even applaud it. But what if it was proven you are contributing to their prediciment? Would you feel bad about that, too? We could just leagalize all drugs and move to a full welfare state. We could subsidize - even incentivize - poor behavior like having children you never wanted (remember ADC?). People - all people - need to take some measure of responsibility for their conduct and lives. We need to stop rewarding people for bad behavior or complete indifference. If someone expects me to be sensitive to their situation, then I expect the same in return. That's common sense....not insensitivity. Nothing gives anyone a license to treat another person like crap. That goes both ways. Just because I choose to address our homeless issue through established means rather than giving a panhandler a handout doesn't mean I don't care. Just because you give every panhandler a handout, doesn't mean you do.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:21 p.m.

@pbehjatnia, as I stated earlier, I do donate both my time and money to help the homeless. Also, as I said earlier, my oppinion is that if you don't want to give money to the homeless, simply dont give them money...thats your choice. I will choose to give money to people I feel are in need. Also, please dont ask me to approve a property tax millage to support the harrassment of society's most vulnerable people.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

@atticus: we are not talking about small amoubts of alcohol or tobacco here. we are talking about addiction. expensive addiction. addiction which kills. you should consider volunteering since you want to share. just dont give money to contribute to the days fix of crack or heroine or booze. you are not helping. you are directly harming the addict by giving.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

As stated earlier, if someone ask for money for food, I dont make a judgement as to weather or not I believe they will spend the money on alcohol. The reason, is because I wouldn't want to deny someone whos hungry based on an assumption, or to deny one person food because of the actions of another. Also, as stated earlier, If a small amount of alcohol or tobacco is what brings comfort to someones miserable life, so be it.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

there is no reason to offer food or money to anyone begging in ann arbor. there are too many organisations and programs for assistance here such as delonis or project outreach. if you are in need and are not integrated into the available options, it is because you dont want rules applied to you. we need our beat cops back. we dont need another flipping park.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:47 p.m.

If you read my post above, I concur with Stephen. I have actually witnessed panhandlers not only turn down food...but become offended at the offer. Giving money to panhandlers may assuage your guilt Atticus, but it is exactly the primary reason experts advise alternate methods of feeding homeless. It perpetuates drug and alcohol abuse for many and does nothing to "help" people. So if you think you are doing may want to read some studies and recognize you may be contributing to the opposite.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:46 p.m.

@Atticus: Breakfast is every day of the year 7/365 at St. Andrews downtown: The Delonis Center offers Lunch and Dinner each weekday to everyone (and breakfast each day to residents of the shelter). You can volunteer to help by going here: and the churches rotate the weekend Lunch and Dinner among them on a schedule that the Delonis Center has and informs the homeless community of. I haven't yet met a (an honest) panhandler who didn't admit they knew the drill when questioned about the details.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

Steven, thats a pretty broad statement...Where do they have access to breakfast and dinner every day? far as I know, most of the churches only offer food one day a week. Your statement also ignores the fact that some might not know where to go to get a meal. When someone say to me they are hungry, I dont question them, I try to feed them.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

@Atticus, my wife and I have offered food to most of the regular panhandlers and bunko artists on Main Street. They don't want it. They already get access to a free breakfast and a free dinner every day. That's not their issue. Sorry.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:24 p.m.

Steven, that homeless shelter was there long before the YMCA was BUilt...So if you're so concerned, why dont you petition to move the YMCA? Also, these people have already paid their debts to society...which last I heard does not include wandewring the earth homeless for the rest of their lives. So if you really have an issue with your children being that close, then dont bring them to the YMCA.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

To me, this is about feeding someone who ask for help. If someone walks up to you and ask for money to buy food, you have every right to ignore them...I can not do that, it's not in my character.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 3:20 p.m.

Speaking as a downtown resident who lives one block from the Homeless Shelter and who has talked to a lot of downtown residents and business owners, the firing on the downtown walking beat cops was a blow for all of us. The fact that there are 10 registered sex offenders at the homeless shelter and that the shelter is one block from the downtown YMCA and there is no visible police presence is troubling. The fact that you can't walk to get coffee and back in the morning or pump gas into your car without being accosted by a panhandler or bunko artist is troubling. The fact that you can't eat dinner at an outside cafe without being accosted by a panhandler or bunko artist is troubling. The fact that the police have been instructed by city management not to interfere with panhandlers or bunko artists unless they are violent is most troubling. The fact that the "Dirties" surge downtown every night to occupy downtown city sidewalks in such numbers that you have trouble getting by them and the police are instructed to do nothing about them is most troubling. While I'm an athletic 6 foot tall adult male capable of defending myself and used to dealing with these people on a daily basis, many of our visitors (who are so critical to the financial viability of the downtown business community) are not and after one such experience, they won't come back and will tell 20 more people about their bad experience. The underinvestment in law enforcement downtown and the direction to the police not to interfere with the behavior of the street people among us is a grave mistake and needs to be reversed.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 2:50 p.m.

Don't forget, a University town with a population of students and an incredibly permissive atmosphere means this isn't Ann Arbor's problem...people come here to panhandle from other communities also. The more permissive the atmosphere, the more attractive Ann Arbor is to many people outside this community. There aren't enough resources to address the problems of other towns, yet that's exactly where this is headed in the complete absence of any enforcement at all. Liberal U. C. Berkely had this exact same problem about 10 years ago and with minimal police presence and providing other avenues of homeless support, eradicated nearly all panhandling there. And this was by a city government with zero Republicans...much like Ann Arbor. The political will has to be there. We need to address our own homeless problem (and have done many things to do so), but we will NEVER be able to handle 'professional' panhandlers from other communities that will certainly come to Ann Arbor because nobody cares to do anything about it. Remember Ann Arbor Chief Oates? He came from an East Coast city with the same issues. He had a compassionate program to address this with council support. He's gone and many on the council seem to want to only believe addressing this issue equates to insensitivity. That's garbage. Addressing this will improve EVERYONE'S quality of life. Those in need, and those that seek to support them. But we cannot solve the problem for every other city in Southeast Michigan!

David Cahill

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

Apparently Ann Arbor is considered a "soft target" for panhandlers. No wonder there are so many. They would disappear if the Ann Arbor Police made enforcing our existing ordinance a major priority for a significant period - a month or so. We need a "crash program". A history lesson might be useful. In the days of the Roman Republic, pirates were a significant nuisance, but no one ever bothered to commit the resources to eliminating them. When Pompey was given the authority to rid the Mediterranean of them, the Roman fleet swept the seas clear in a matter of months. Ah, the benefits of a classical education....

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 1:22 p.m.

Well, Atticus, your avatar shows you carry a gun, you're a big guy. Probably don't look like an inviting target. I'm a big guy, too (no gun), and I don't get approached, either. But I certainly believe it happens in downtown Ann Arbor. We pay a considerable amount in taxes to ensure there's a safety net for people down on their luck. Is it too much to ask that people who need help are nice about it, that they thank the taxpayers and don't behave aggressively in public?


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 1:21 p.m.

Well today I saw a group of panhandlers drinking out of "brown bags" and asking people for money. One of the Deans from the UM was passing by and declined to give them a handout. One panhandler became verbally abusive to him. I see this all the time. Last week I saw a group of younger panhandlers obviously drunk. One threw a plastic bottle at a woman that refused to stop and talk to them. Just enforce the current laws for public intoxication and dealing drugs and much of this problem will go away.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

@Atticus - you've missed the point.... I'm not making any judgments about who is or is not able to get a job and feed themselves and those who are not. The judgment I am making is around which from either group has chosen to get in my or my families face to shake us down for money and which do not. Period. Since this hasn't yet happened to you, perhaps when it does you might come back and share your thoughts. Seriously, if you haven't ever witnessed it, it's pretty easy to deny it exists and tell those that have experienced it to "stay home".


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 12:40 p.m.

For all those "softies" who condoned "Punk Week" and felt sorry for those "visitors," this should be eye-opening. Police need to do what they have to do. They should be arresting the aggressive panhandlers instead of ignoring them. And most of the comments were correct- do not give them money and they will eventually go away. How sorry if they have to buy cheap shoes at Value Village.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 12:04 p.m.

I get the sense that people here are painting with a broad brush, trying to act as if all homeless are a bunch of lazy alcoholics, who simply dont want to work.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

Javajolt, who are you to judge who is "able to feed themselves", and who is "unable"? Would be my question.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

Wait Atticus..... Don't confuse the right not to be abused for lack of compassion. You state as if it is a fact: "So far I've heard nothing but anger, intolerence, and judgement being cast at a group of people who are unable to feed themselves." This premise is a complete distortion. Most are making a distinction between those "unwilling to feed themselves"...not those "Unable to feed themselves". I have compassion and do support those unable to feed themselves. I have less compassion for those who have decided aggressive panhandling is better than getting a job. That's a choice. It's also a choice to decide to get in the face of young parents and their children because they look like easy marks for intimidation. You have to stop using a broad brush to pain all panhandlers as innocent hungry victims. And all those that object to aggressive panhandling as uncaring, unfeeling jerks. While tyou can find an example or two to support either, it would be a mistake to conclude both statement are always accurate. They're not.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

So far I've heard nothing but anger, intolerence, and judgement being cast at a group of people who are unable to feed themselves. Unsubstantiated stories of children being cursed out after offering food to the homeless...The old "they're just going to spend the money on alcohol", ect. I've actually volunteered my time feeding the homeless, and I can tell you that EVERY person we feed is grateful, and none have ever cursed me, as you claim to have had happen.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.

And not only that, they tag-team.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 11:31 a.m.

I don't go to downtown Ann Arbor for just this reason. Most of these people are professional panhandlers and have no interest in bettering themselves. If we the people were allowed to get aggressive right back, you can bet they would yell foul and we'd be the ones in trouble. We definitely need the beat cops back. Also, another 'too bad': too bad we can't hire one of the militia groups to drive them out of the city. My one experience with helping a panhandler was outside of the Ypsi K Mart. The man asked for money because he was'hungry' so I said I'd buy him lunch and we went in to the store where they had twofer, and So I got the two hoagies and a pop for him. On coming out of the store, I had to fight him off as he tried to plant a drunk and slobbery KISS on my mouth! So, never again will I offer any kind of alternative to one of these people. I don't feel sorry for a one of them. And as for the ones who do it on the entrance and exit ramps? Check out their shoes. They aren't the $20 kind, or even the ones from Value World. They are top of the line. Don't fall for their hard luck stories, folks!


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 11:09 a.m. clearly have not had the pleasure yet. I have run a business downtown for decades. I have seen it happen, it has happened to me, it has happened to EyeHeeartA2, if you read Ann Arbor News Archives they are rife with examples, complaints and experiences of this happening. Ask nearly ANY retail business owner at street level and every single one of them will have one or more personal story about it. You are lucky to have avoided it. But it doesn't occasionally frequently occurs. Why do you think the DDA has it on its agenda? Because it NEVER occurs? Oh...and the comment about staying home if you don't want someone violating your personal space is ludicrous. Are you serious? Basically you are saying, "it's never happened to me, but if it has happened to you, stay home??" Now you've gone off the rails from presenting a reasonable argument.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

I also have trouble believing what javajolt said about panhandlers "chasing people down the street"...A) I have never seen that happen, and B) it make no sense...Why would any panhadler persist after one person, who has already denied them, when their are hundreds of other people walking by. Also, as far as i right to your personal space, in a crowded city, if you want personal space, stay inside... do you get angry every time you're at a crosswalk and someone stands next to you waiting for the light to change?


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

Yeah....Punk Week... Not a single one of these people is from Ann Arbor. These are the same band of roving young "panhandlers" with the dogs that have been accosting people downtown. Many know exactly which group. Now there's a huge difference between homeless people panhandling for money to get food, and a group of thugs pushing people around and intimidating them for "fun"...Please tell me you agree with this distinction. Bottom line: aggressive panhandling or not, how can you have a vibrant downtown with thousands of people in your city center every night and NOT have passive police presence in the form of assigned beat cops? That's crazy! Consider this from: "...According to a MySpace page for Punk Week, it was started by a small group of friends who thought it would be a good idea to have a whole week of events just for the fun of it and to see what they could get away with. The following people were arraigned Tuesday on charges of resisting and obstructing a police officer and disturbing the peace: Kolby Chase McMinn, 24, of Tularosa, NM Melissa Margret Lyon, 20, of St. Louis, Mo. Page Alexandra Callison, 22, of Oakland, Calif. Katherine Chandler Andaas, 21, of Lansing Spencer Christian Dilday, 21, of Lafayette, La. Elijah David King, 19, of Oakland, Calif. John Matthew Hoopes, 31, of Buffalo, NY Ryan Nicholas Walker, 25, of West Columbia, SC

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

eyeheartA2, it's not that I dont believe you...It's more that I think you believe ANY panhandling is aggressive panhandling. As was stated earlier, I have worked downtown for years and have lived in A2 for over 32 years, and have never experienced what you claim to.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 10:22 a.m.

Punk Week...the gift that keeps asking for more giving.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

It looks like Atticus (love the avitar by the way) has had different experiences than some of the rest of us. Here are some facts: * New York cracked down on nearly all petty crime including aggressive panhandling. Take a look at Times Square. it's fairly clean these days. * I've lived in Ann Arbor for close to 45 years. Panhandling has always existed in this town. However, not in the numbers or with the aggressiveness we see lately. It is probably directly related to the economy and other factors...but that doesn't forgive making other people feel threatened on the same street. * @EyeHeartA2 is correct: Do not give them money. Find other more constructive ways to help homelessness. Giving money nearly always means it will be spent on alcohol. On State St. years ago panhandlers were all well known. As soon as most were given enough money, they would head down to the party store to buy those small airplane bottles of liquor. Why do you think that party store by Bivouac sells those airplane bottles of liquor? * I was downtown with my daughter a couple of years back parked in front of Espresso Royale on State St. When a woman and her daughter pulled up and got out of the car. They walked over to a homeless panhandler (regular) with a casserole dish of food. (I guess a "teachable moment" for the kid). Her kindness was rejected, the guy screamed at her and demanded money. Everyone on the street turned around. I think both the woman and her daughter formed a new opinion of panhandlers after that. * Not all panhandlers are "bad" or "aggressive". But by the same token, not all of them are "good" or wear a halo either. Many have made it their choice to live this way. Before everyone screams about this about the large group of young - able bodied panhandlers with dogs that camp out on Main St. where people are eating. I overheard a conversation between a passerby and the (aggressive) group where one of them said they probably make more money (tax free) panhandling than most people with a job. * I am in favor of anyone wanting to passively play an instrument on the street for money being permitted to do so without a permit. Oir streets are fairly dull and sterile ever since the city required a peddlers permit to play. * @Debbie - Nobody is blaming homeless panhandlers for anything. But people are correctly objecting to other people (whatever you call them) getting in their faces and demanding money and following them for more than a block yelling at them for choosing not to do so. I shouldn't be accosted on my city street by a panhandler, millionaire, cop, or anyone else trying to invade my (or your) personal space. That's a right, too!


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

Let's make this a win-win situation. Replace Liberty Plaza with a skate park! This would eliminate the long time problems associated with the current facility around panhandling and drug and alcohol abuse, bring active youth downtown to support businesses there, put the skate park close to the Neutral Zone, and allow passers by to enjoy watching the sport. What's not to like about it? There are probably features in Liberty Plaza that could even be reused. And Sonic Lunch would have a whole new and exciting landscape!

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

Eyeheartannarbor, I have worked Downtown for years, I walk to the post office every day from Main street, and have never been harrassed as you claim to be. It actually seems like fear mongering plain and simple compared to my experiences. Also, I find it shamefull that some people here would rather pay to lock someone up in jail, than to give a person a dollar to get a sandiwich.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:13 a.m.

Javajolt, thats not really true. Ann Arbor has had panhandlers for years it's nothing new. Same with towns like San fransisco and New York, and they still have people who visit the down town area. The solution is very simple, if you dont want to give money to panhandlers, simply dont. Ignore them...This is a far better solution then arresting them.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

Around last Halloween I was walking by the Borders on Liberty and one of the homeless-looking men who usually sits along the wall was jumping up and yelling "BOO!" to everyone who passed. Not pleasant.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

Crime is everywhere in Ann Arbor so I am not sure why if you live in Sloan Plaza or S. Maple why you would get any precedent! We have the only shelter that allows anyone from anywhere to stay. Unlike all other counties you must be a resident.I watched a woman playing the violin on Sonic Fridays trying to raise funds. I didn't see any one rushing to her aid to donate funds The business's and people need to come together as a community to support our homeless Our shelters our full so our families and singles have no where to go accept leave. In Kansas and Oregon you do not see homeless people because they embrace them. Another problem we have is the slum lords of rental properties that allow feces to remain after sewage back ups from the city. and money should be put into full force into City inspections we have people, children our neighbors living in squander and violations of health codes of 105 city of Ann Arbor.If a landlord has abused the system they need to held accountable for people health,property etc. We the people elect these fools that are suppose to protect and represent so get out and vote in November.The crime is not just Sloan Plaza its every neighborhood everywhere. No one should be given preferential treatment because of there income nor neighborhood. Its called know your neighbors,and watch out for them. Sloan Plaza has camera's all over so that should be a easy one to solve! Stop blaming it on homeless panhandlers did you all forget we are in a economic crisis.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 9:03 a.m.

In order for Ann Arbor to be viable, the downtown must be viable, healthy and safe. While it may be true most of the panhandlers are harmless, this is certainly not true of all. People who feel threatened downtown will simply stop shopping there. This leads to closed businesses, shopkeepers and employees out of work and a decaying downtown area. Don't believe it? There are a hundred downtown's across America that are dead or dying because nobody understood the cause and effect of aggressive panhandling leading to more blatant forms of aggressive crime. Ann Arbor needs to pull its priorities together and fund a couple of beat cops downtown again. They got along with the community AND the homeless. Why were they pulled in the first place? If the DDA lives up to its charter, it will prioritize safety over a skate least for now.

Patti Smith

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

I've started telling the panhandlers that I'm a Detroit Public schoolteacher. That makes them leave me alone...I think a few even looked sorry for me.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

Most of these people are harmless, and simply unable to function in todays society. I often give money to the homeless, and quite frankly, I dont care what they spend it on. If a small bit of alcohol, or a pouch of tobacco is one of the only pleasures in their life, so be it... but I wouldn't want to deny someone thats hungry food because they might spend it on alcohol.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

I don't go downtown alone anymore at night either. Every time I do, I get approached by panhandlers, some of them aggressive. I was downtown after dark with a friend this week and even in a pair we got approached in an aggressive way. This really is changing my willingness go downtown in the evening, and even during the day. I go downtown for pleasure, but it's not a pleasure when you know you will get approached in this aggressive way. There is also a problem with panhandlers in cars. If people stop giving them money, they will no longer do this. You get approached with some hard luck story that's obviously false. I've been approached both by panhandlers in cars and on foot when I've been waiting in my car for a friend to come and open the door to a business on Thompson. I've donated to Alpha House to help with the homeless problem for families and will continue to do so. I hope we continue to provide for the homeless, but not by giving money to panhandlers, who are often not homeless. We don't need more development downtown, we need more police patrolling there. Those police should not come from other parts of town either. We need them in those areas as well.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

How about a homeless skate park. Problem solved


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 7:16 a.m.

The panhandling business will end once people stop giving up their own hard earned money to these folks. Don't feel sad for panhandlers - this is America where we provide food stamps, disability, social security, shelters, free meals, and so on. They'll be ok without that extra $1!

Rob Caplis

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 7:08 a.m.

The panhandling issue is getting out of control along Main St. as well. I think we all know "Crutchy"/Arthur, the man who seems to have made Main St. his beat and has driven off other competition. I've had him interrupt me while seated at restaurant patios (which they are specifically not allowed to do), while saying "good night" to a date at the Ashley/Washington/Huron parking lot, and more. I've watched this supposedly crippled man run quite well across the street to ask another mark for change. He's harassed me multiple times in a single day. Homelessness is an unfortunate problem for many people, and I'm glad the city has services (like the Delonis Center) to help. But, I think we all know of a few people in town who have made panhandling their profession, depositing significant sums of money at the bank, and then comfortably going home at night. Interesting how I never see "Crutchy" on the streets after midnight.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 6:25 a.m.

I love this quote: "We can't solve whatever this problem may be by now saying we're going to throw money at it, because frankly we don't have money..." So, if we had the money, we would solve the problem by throwing money at it. But we don't have the money, so, too bad. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

Steve Pepple

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 6:09 a.m.

Two comments were removed, one because of name-calling and the other because it contained a statement attributing political support from one person to another that could not be verified at this time.


Thu, Sep 2, 2010 : 5:04 a.m.

This is the same city that can't seem to place a patrol car at the former Studio 4 at or near its closing time to at least have a police pressence when the bar let out. But, the DDA would like the city to have patrols to discourage the panhandlers who are aggressive in their begging. Someone please help me to understand what am I really missing about this story. I mean, really.

Mature Townie

Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 10:13 p.m.

How many panhandler occurrences do we need daily, before there is enforcement of the laws? I do not go anywhere downtown alone, because of panhandlers approaching me. Fortunately, my husband or a pack of girlfriends are available to go with me. I know longer park in parking structures, because I was attacked in the Maynard Structure. The police and firefighters have to deal with the homeless daily. What a waste of their training and talents. Now, new students will be in town and have to deal with the homeless. Get it together Ann Arbor. We are known as the homeless "drop off," town. Wait till the new underground structure is open. It will be another place for the homeless to live and hang out. Start doing something people in charge, please!


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 10:08 p.m.

and while i am ticked off because we now have a crackden in hunt park in my neighboorhood: spare me the speech about how a2 made it onto the 'great places' list this week. and seriously, a skate park? we have 2 k acres of parks already for which there is zero money available. which brass goose is gonna poop out the bad egg to foot the bill for the construction and perpetual maintenance of a skate park? how about some cops, some firefighters and some maintenance? just a lil suggestion folks.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 9:57 p.m.

i guess that increased crime, and violent crime at that, is the kick in the keester we all get for the naivite of the dda trusting that the ann arbor city council would do what they promised with the extorted 2 million dollars: keep the beat cops. gee, ya know, when you get held up in a corner you should never believe what the thief( ves) are saying. talk about dumb.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 9:28 p.m.

What were DDA board member Roger Hewitt's "problems"?


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.

Oh wow, a task force to discuss crime and panhandlers. Bring this up to Ms Briere is like bringing this up to empty air: "We need to engage the community. We need to have businesses involved. We need to have the downtown residents involved." What the heck does that mean? I suspect there is going to be sensitivity training for these groups to better understand the plight of the homeless panhandler and why they need your spare money. You could do what I do, I respond to them by saying, "I was going to ask you for money." Some years back the Michigan law on panhandling was ruled unconstitutional. The court ruled that to rise to the level of a crime, the person asking had to be aggressive, which is not exactly clear, I suppose you have to feel like you are being robbed. Aggressive to one may not be aggressive to another. Does anyone know how the 2001 resolved the issue? I've not noticed any change at all. As long as A2 is the Michigan homeless shelter city you can expect this to continue. Enforcement is practically useless, a homeless poor person can't afford to pay a fine.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 7:35 p.m.

Obviously Sabra Briere doesn't mind being bombarded by people asking for money...I, for one, work hard for my paycheck to pay my bills and wish I could afford to buy coffees/lattes at Starbucks and sit on the flower beds on Main smoking cigarettes [at what, $7/pack?]. Seem cold? Next time a panhandler asks you for a buck to buy some lunch, offer to buy him a burger and see what response you get...90% of the time, the money is not for food or bus fare, but booze or crack.


Wed, Sep 1, 2010 : 6:59 p.m.

I like the idea of a skate park within the City limits. The location is ideal for a number of reasons. Unlike winter only activities, like ice skating, or summer only ones like swimming, a skate park can be used nearly year round. But, and this is a very big 'but', given how stretched our rescources are, with little improvement on the horizon, I think it imprudent to embark on a project of this scope. Why not try something novel, like having all the funding in hand, without borrowing a dime, before pushing any dirt around?