Mayor Charlie Hales has pledged to tackle the aggressive panhandling downtown by street kids known as "summer travelers." But the Oregon Legislature did him no favors last week by blocking a bill that would have revived anti-loitering rules called "sit-lie laws."
Now Hales faces a panhandling invasion from an even more disreputable demographic: the media.
The beachhead was established in April by Knoxville News Sentinel columnist David Moon, who arrived in Portland, was asked for money, and immediately decided to begin asking other people for money.
So without giving it any forethought and feeling the safety of anonymity, I walked up to a guy in a sports coat and tie. “Sir, I’m trying to get home today and need something to eat. Can I have $3?”
He gave me $2.
In less than 45 minutes I collected $32 and some change. I was wearing Nike sweatpants, a sleeveless Harvard football T-shirt, a Duke visor and a pair of $100 sneakers.
The column goes on from there, though Moon does not have a great deal of advice for Hales or the Portland Business Alliance, which perennially tries to quash downtown panhandling.
"There are multitudes of people who want to be part of a solution to the homeless problem," Moon writes. "I have no idea what the solutions are. That afternoon in Portland I couldn’t even tell if homelessness was the problem or the result of a problem."
This is not the first time a reporter has gone undercover in Portland as a panhandler: In 2005, WW sent reporter Dave Fitzpatrick to a highway off-ramp to ask for spare change. He collected "$10.17, a tuna fish sandwich and a can of Miller Lite."