Monday, June 16, 2008

Livability Indicator #5 - Creative Panhandling

I should start this post off by first admitting my ignorance. I am no expert in finding solutions to the homeless problem and this post will mostly be related to the difference in panhandling between different places, say Austin (friendlier) and Dallas (often pushy if not lewd), except exacerbated to the extremes.

I realize that there is no glorious patronizing liberal solution to cure homelessness, however much we might wish there is (which one might argue is really just an intellectually lazy and socially disconnected last resort of merely throwing money and a shelter at the problem).

Dallas has recently opened its new service and shelter facility for the chronically homeless (article) called The Bridge, so it seems an appropriate time to discuss the different approaches towards asking for change taken in different cities.

Thus far, I can't tell whether it has had much of an effect. There were and still will be homeless in downtown; the dynamic of which I find somewhat fascinating. Nowhere in the city, and perhaps unlike many places on Earth are the "haves" and the "have nots" in such close proximity with no other range or diversity of class. In DTD, it's pretty much the condo owner and the homeless guy...all of which like to ask what breed of dog mine is.

We've all been asked for change at some point. The Onion has noticed a guy who has taken it to another level that keeps demanding change. Panhandlers in Dallas take an approach more like this one in South Park. This post is dedicated to places where the cups of change usually accompany a street performance, a lonely musician, a pantomime, etc. However, the only places I've encountered these performances are in areas of what I would deem higher livability, or at least more interesting, more cultural, and more stimulating places: NYC, DC, Venice Beach, New Orleans, Rome, and Madrid, to name the ones that pop into my head most immediately. I would presume Paris is way up on the list, but alas I have never been (hangs head in shame).

What I DO know is that these street performers gather in well known places and highly locations to ensure the maximum visibility like any retailer providing a service would want. I have no idea whether there is a relationship between the street performers shown below and homelessness, but I can't imagine they make much money performing their art. The point is the difference between being bugged for change with a bogus story that I've heard one hundred times in Dallas, the presence of which is corrosive to investment and quality of life, and the visually interesting (or at least comical) methods of asking for a buck below:

Musician performing in a plaza.

I always wanted to get these mimes to break character, but was never successful. Perhaps, I should have pushed one over. I'm truly fascinated by people that do this. Are they normal? Did I share a pint with one at a local pub and discuss the election? international relations? the middle east?

Street acrobats?

Creepy guy sings the blues?

Star Wars is popular.