City Government

Homeless Panhandler Problem–Any Ideas?

The two comments to the Mayor Hotline featured in the previous post point out the total disconnect on a growing problem in Boise.

Both the businessman and the parks worker want “something done.” Team Dave pawns it off on the coppers and their only tool is the law. Problem persists.

Mr. Businessman doesn’t like the panhandlers screwing up his profit motive. Mr. Parks Worker doesn’t want the homeless drinkers to screw up visitors enjoyment of the park. The city pushed the drinkers away from the river by ordinance and the park worker now suggests some sort of “corral.”

The Greenbelt is less and less a place to send your wives and daughters despite efforts of police volunteers, real coppers, and thousands of good citizens. Even though the “transients” are just killing each each other this season, we have a problem right here in river city.

Meanwhile, Mayor Dave Bieter is dedicating a new detox center this week which he claims to have organized five years ago.

Given the intellect of GUARDIAN readers, we figure you can offer some direction and problem solving ideas to those in local government. Please avoid DAILY PAPER-type prattle.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Hate to say this but if you think drinking along the greenbelt has ceased you are wrong. This post jogged my memory about something that din’t quite look right when the wife and I went for a bicycle ride on the greenbelt. Three things I now remember:
    1. There were plenty of the down and out crowd tossing off their favorite beverage of choice.

    2. No cops on bikes patrolling

    3. No Gray Panthers in the golf carts patrolling.

    There were lots of folks out enjoying the sunshine walking, riding bicycles, and just laying around enjoying a great warm spring day.

    How about organizing a crew of “willing to work for food” people to clean up the parks and river banks. They get a punch card for a nominal amount to spend at the see fit at local businesses. I am ok with them making the decision about what they wish to purchase. We’ll get to see how much they are willing to work.

  2. Unfortunately, no solution from bikeboy, but further clarification of the problem as I see it:

    There are several types of homeless/panhandler types.

    You’ve got your folks who have some temporary unfortunate circumstances, and are anxious to dig themselves out. (The folks who really will work for food!)

    You’ve got your unfortunates who have mental issues and/or substance abuse problems.

    And you’ve also got your modern-day hobos – those who are homeless, and subsequently devoid of any social responsibilities, totally by choice. No bills to pay, no alarm clock, no yard to mow.

    I’d say that by and large, the public is anxious to help those who are desperate through unfortunate circumstances. Witness the generosity of donations to the Rescue Mission and other shelters/facilities.

    And most would like to help those who are mentally unstable, or who need to “detox,” but not necessarily in a recurring sense. (The amount of public assistance needs to be on a graduated scale, and as drug abusers repeat, they need to accept more personal responsibility.)

    BUT – personally I have no interest in supporting a chosen “king of the road” lifestyle. In fact, to do so encourages transient influx, seems to me. (Back in the Hobo Glory Days, the generous hobo benefactors would be “rewarded” with a notch on their fence post, to give other hobos a heads-up. I don’t believe Boise wants to be known across the Hobo Universe as a place that opens its arms to hobos. Do we?)

    (Hey, if Algore invented the Internet, maybe Mayor Beater did the detox-center thing.)

  3. Many years ago, Alaska had what was called the “blue ticket”. When you arrived in state you had to prove you had a job or means of financial independance, or you were put on the next boat “outside”. That is a term that is used to explain anywhere outside of Alaska. Maybe it is time we do the same here. Since these people have a job that they call “signing”, maybe we should require them to have a business license.

  4. Something like the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) is needed as Paul stated above. It could be done for minimal cost and benefit the whole community.

  5. Ryan Donahue
    Apr 20, 2010, 11:12 pm

    The first thing we ought to do is avoid the words “they” and “them” when discussing this problem. Paraphrasing good ol’ John Bradford, let’s look upon our homeless brothers and sisters and remember that there, but for the grace of God, goes you and I. How many missed paychecks can we endure before we’re in the same boat? Empathy and kindness will go much further toward a solution than name calling and finger pointing ever will.

  6. Water the parks all night. Intense police spot check around the clock. Remember, getting arrested is not a worry for these guys and is very expensive for us. So just harass them and take their beer drugs and weapons away. Then give them a free non-stop bus ride to Reno and a roll of quarters to each rider. Repeat as needed until problem is gone. Make it well known all over the nation; “in Boise they take your beer, drugs, and knife without giving you a shower, food, bed, or lawyer.”

    The real issue is mental illness, and is really very sad, but Idaho ain’t got the money for that. So send em to a city where they fit in better. Maybe Seattle is a better choice?

    This idea applies to those pan-handlers who live in our parks and not those who are just regular folks supplementing their regular income.

  7. Porcupine Picayune
    Apr 21, 2010, 6:52 am

    Many communities have adopted a program where citizens are provided access to and encouraged to give to the homeless “coupon like” handouts that provide information about the assistance programs available.

    The newly arrived and truly needy are usually very grateful, and the “Professional Homeless” show their true colours by rejecting them (and usually sharing an epithet-or-two).

    An unfortunate truth is: “If you build it they will come”.

    The more asstance programs and shelters we build, the more Professional Homeless that will migrate to Boise. As a “Program Tech” @ the old Community House, one of my jobs was to conduct “Intake Interviews”.

    Of people who had newly arrived in Boise (or at least had out-of-state I.D.) we would ask what brought them to Boise.

    I would often hear from the Professional Homeless: “I was staying at the shelter in so-and-so and heard that Boise’s was much nicer”

    For more about the “Professional Homeless”:

  8. A few years ago, I worked for a small, non-profit organization in Boise. When extra help was needed for cleanup, lifting equipment and other jobs the staff couldn’t do, my then boss turned to the Rescue Mission and paid more than minimum wage for a work crew, provided them with lunch and transportation and made them feel useful and important. This is something other businesses and agencies, such as the parks department, could do to help those less fortunate.

  9. There is no problem. I’m downtown all the time and while there are a couple of homeless folks here and there, they certainly don’t pester passers-by. Anyone who things Boise has problem homeless folks hasn’t lived in a big city.
    I ride the greenbelt two to six times a day, right near downtown, and typically alone. I have yet to be hassled by a homeless person.

  10. I was at Ann Morrison park with my 3 year-old niece this weekend and we were harassed by two extremely drunk and extremely smelly men near the main footbridge. They followed us both times as we crossed the bridge and continued to try and ask my niece questions even though I politely answered for her once and then tried to continue on with our walk.

    They also relayed a story about how their friends said they were going to “go down to the river and have a beer.” Obviously drinking on the greenbelt hasn’t stopped.

    I don’t know these mens’ stories or how they ended up where they are, but I know it made me feel very uncomfortable about having my niece at the park. I felt like I needed to have one hand on her at all times.

  11. Will Rainford
    Apr 21, 2010, 11:48 am

    I wonder how many people who pontificate about people who are homeless have ever volunteered in the local shelter for a period of time. Look through the eyes of other people, understand their lived experiences, think critically, and arrive at solutions that fit the issues.

    I highly recommend volunteering at Interfaith Sanctuary!

  12. Will, as long as the church and the interfaith sanctuary supports illegal emigrants and supports the same, not a chance as far as volunteering is concerned.

  13. The city needs to have a local excise tax on fortified beer and wine. This is the the stuff the drunks buy and consume in the parks and gladly sold by some of Boises finest merchants. The money could be used to help run the de-tox center. Also, bottled water should be taxed. I see empty and half full bottles of water everywhere. What a luxury for a bloated society to be able to buy water in a bottle! Haven’t herd of anyone dying of thirst around here.

  14. Grumpy ole guy
    Apr 22, 2010, 10:11 pm

    I like what Bikeboy has to say about there not being A homeless problem or population; but, several of them, based on the variety and type of causes. I think that if there could be some sort of day-labor place or places where those who really are willing to work for food could gather and people or businesses which would like to hire some short-term employees could do so, it might ease a part of the problem. I am always suspicious of the folks with signs at the large stores, small malls, it appears to me that they are really looking for a hand-out.
    Warm weather is a time of yard work and I am certain that many would appreciate being able to hire one or a few people to do specific jobs, if they had some sort of means or reassurance that these workers were ‘safe to hire’. Trust is in such short supply.

  15. Pablo Hernandez
    Apr 23, 2010, 8:22 am

    Perhaps a deposit on cans and bottles such as Oregon has will help the panhandler problem. The panhandler can have their plastic bag out for people to place their throwaways, the panhandler can then return the cans and bottles for cash. Thus supporting themselves. Sounds a bit silly at first, but at least a public service would be accomplished.

  16. Judy Taylor
    Apr 23, 2010, 1:00 pm

    My heart aches for anyone that has lost his/her home. Unfortunately it’s happening more and more now. BUT, I do know Boise has several shelters that offer food, showers, laundry, clothing, and beds to those that choose to take the help. I also donate to the Idaho Food Bank even though I am on a fixed income. However, I have to say my dislike for the panhandlers standing at every entrance to the local grocery stores with their crumpled cardboard signs has started to harden my heart. I have recently had them walk up to me in the parking lot and ask for money. I DON’T like it and I NEVER give them so much as a penny. The city needs to start a tough crack down of these regular beggars and put an end to constant intimidating harrassment.

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