Friday, September 9, 2011

Aggressively Panhandling For Charity?

"Hi Uptown Update,

I had a disturbing experience at the Uptown Farmer's yesterday and it bugged me enough to write in. Yesterday was a beautiful day and I decided to walk over to the Uptown Farmer's Market at Weiss Hospital and do my part to support this endeavor. I really want this market to be successful. I found some great produce at great prices and bought what I needed for a recipe.

As soon as my purchases were bagged and I started walking away, I was startled to hear someone running up behind me. I instinctively stopped and turned around to face whomever was coming after me. It turned out to be a woman from an agency that had a booth at the market, who very aggressively asked that I donate the food I had just bought to their organization. I was so startled that I politely declined and kept walking. Again, the volunteer came after me aggressively asking for donations to the organization. If this was someone asking for money on the street it would have qualified as aggressive panhandling and I would have called 911.

I am a generous donor of time, talent and money to various charitable organizations in the neighborhood. I have nothing against them. Again, I really wanted this market to succeed and attract more vendors and customers. However, I won't be a customer here as long this behavior is tolerated."


  1. I certainly hope you reported this to the organizers of this event!

  2. I know which organization this could be. I will forward this complaint on...if they haven't seen yet...not a good approach or experience at all.

    If the writer could describe the person that would be helpful. One person runs the booth but may have been on break at the time.

  3. I did not report this story to embarrass any one individual or disparage any charity organization. Their intentions were good. It was how they dealt with their potential donors that I found disturbing.

  4. Again... don't call 911 for silly things like someone panhandling.

    There are people who are actually dealing with real emergencies - and that's what 911 is for... And you aren't one of those people.

  5. Pierre, you are so very wrong.

    Just Thursday night, at the Gang Awareness Seminar, Lt. Robert Stasch of the 23rd District Tactical Team, told the room of people that 911 was for anything that needed the immediate attention of a police officer.

    If you are being threatened on the street by a stranger, that's definitely a 911 call.

    Furthermore, the city of Chicago puts its officers in the areas where there are the most 911 calls. Like having cops on our streets? Keep calling when you see a situation that warrants their presence.

  6. pepper spray,.. although I highly doubt asking for donations was "aggressive" enough to even think about using force. How many times has a person standing on a corner working for some non-profit like Greenpeace or Mercy For Animals asked for donations from any of us? Big deal, most of these organizations stay afloat by donations, I don't care if they ask me 10 times while I'm walking away, I can still say no and go about my business. I'd take a deep breath, enjoy the nice weather and lighten up a bit..

  7. @ Shopper

    I passed on the complaint to a friend of the "agent" working that day and she will talk to her.

    Thank you for visiting the farmers market, hope you come again and have a better experience.

  8. While I wouldn't exactly categorize him as "aggressive," there is a panhandler (white guy, prob. in his 50s) just outside the Jewel parking lot on Montrose. I haven't seen him harass anyone; he just sits there shaking his cup.

  9. If a panhandler follows a person, blocks his path, touches him, or shouts obscenities at him, that's aggressive panhandling.

    But simply sitting on the ground and shaking a can is completely within his rights, as long as Jewel doesn't mind him using its property.

  10. Toniacita, doesn't seem to me that shopper was really threatened. Annoyed, clearly, and maybe shopper even felt threatened, but there was nothing indicating any threat had been made or implied here. "Aggressive" was what was written and that is totally subjective. Ever wonder why sometimes folks can't get a cop to show up when they really need one? Cause too often they responding to 'calls' like this.

  11. Sean, it's a quality of life issue.

    People have the right to shop somewhere without people running after them and demanding they give handouts.

    I don't shop anywhere that allows panhandling. If that had happened to me at the farmers market, I would never go back, and I would tell all my friends not to go there because it's an unpleasant atmosphere where customers get shaken down.

    Is being chased down the way to make Uptown's struggling farmers market more popular and customer friendly?

    There are many nearby places to spend my money, and I choose to do it at stores and yes, farmers markets, where I don't get harassed.

    If you've ever wondered why people call Uptown rough, scary and gritty, look no further than the panhandlers and loiterers.

    I ate today at two outdoor cafes, one in Andersonville and one in Uptown. In Andersonville, we had a lovely time sitting outdoors.

    In Uptown, we were panhandled even before I could park the car. Then while we were eating, a woman walking up and down the street asked me for a cigarette, then returned to ask me for money Later another panhandler got into a loud argument with the waitress a foot from us about whether or not he could ask her customers in the cafe for money.

    Gee, which outdoor cafe am I more likely to return to?

    Christie Hahn of Business Partners said it loud and clear a few years ago: Uptown businesses have no chance of success as long as "everyday harassment" of their patrons is the rule of the day.

    As much as I want to and try to support local businesses, I won't put up with things like the reader who wrote in experienced.

    Oh, and Sean, please reread the original post. "Shopper" clearly said that "If this was someone asking for money on the street it would have qualified as aggressive panhandling and I would have called 911." He or she did not call 911. So your argument that s/he took a cop off the street is a false one.

  12. Rob, yes, it's a first world problem. Because you and I and "Shopper" live in the first world. I'm sure if I lived in Calcutta, I would probably have different concerns. But we all live here.

    It's also an economic problem. Would it surprise you to know that many, many locally owned businesses are just barely hanging on? How many have gone out of business in the 12 years I've lived in this part of Uptown? Lots.

    It seems simple to me. Customers want the best, happiest, easiest shopping and dining experiences they can get. Being panhandled and shaken down really doesn't qualify as that for many.

    We in Uptown are lucky that we are surrounded by so many other neighborhoods that have great shopping and dining options. We don't have to shop or eat in Uptown. It's easy to go somewhere else. We've got options.

    So, if you want to keep locally owned businesses in Uptown, we need to make it a better experience for their patrons. Again, "everyday harassment" doesn't make for a prime dining or shopping experience.

    You can look down your nose at me and "Shopper" for not putting up with the crap that goes on, because we don't live in a developing or third world country. That's your option.

    But if we want to have mom and pop shops where you go in and are greeted by name, or where the waitress knows your "usual," or a farmers market, or outdoor cafes, there needs to be a fundamental change in everyone's expectations.

    Accept harassment and panhandling and public urination as part of "Shop Uptown!" and that's exactly what you'll get. And you'll see the farmers market and many of the local shops close. So many are already on the brink.

  13. toniacita, work on your reading comprehension. I didn't say shopper called the police, I was suggesting that your recommendation to call the police was way, way out of line, a bit hysterical.

  14. @Toniacita: I don't know a single person who enjoys being panhandled--and it doesn't matter if it's while eating or shopping in Uptown, marketing at Jewel, or walking to and from work downtown in the Loop. What I *do* know is that there are frequently people who complain about conditions in Uptown but they don't offer thoughts about solutions to the problems and they don't do much to initiate discussions about what can be done to fix the problems.

    So...what are the answers? Do we twist the Police Commissioner's arm to reassign patrols from Englewood to Uptown to address our quality of life issues? Do we get licenses yanked from restaurants with street cafes that don't run off panhandlers? Do we encourage the Uptown Chamber or the SSA's to hire private security to roam the neighborhood and harass the panhandlers away? Do we picket the Alderman's office to get the homeless shelters, SROs, and drop-in centers shut down and moved to Lincoln Park? What are some IDEAS?!?

    Yes, I'm being a bit facetious, but it gets tiring to see people complaining in here without doing anything more than...complain. It's like they expect someone else to step in and fix everything without them having to lift a finger to help. And before anyone snipes back at ME, I will say that I *do* communicate with the Alderman's office, and I *do* have a couple of projects (one crime and safety, another community and commerce) that I'm working on because SOMEONE has to grab the situation by the b*lls and lead.

    I guess that I'm saying that it's easy as hell to complain, but one's credibility improves when you're taking steps to do something about the complaints.

  15. I work with NAHN. I was at the Market on Thursday. This program through the Northside Anti Hunger Network exists at two farmer’s markets in the city in order to help stock food pantries with fresh, local and organic food. It is important to NAHN that the population of people that utilize food pantries have access to healthy foods.

    A group of us who live in the community, separate from NAHN and Weiss Hospital, are working on a project (Wholesome LINK for Uptown Campaign) to get LINK access at the Uptown Farmer’s Market at Weiss Hospital in order to get healthier foods to a population of people (Uptown’s 10,000 LINK recipients) who may not otherwise have financial access to farm fresh foods.

    It sounds like Shopper was annoyed but may have been exaggerating. I hope I am wrong, but it seems to me that by reiterating your comment about "how much you really wanted this market to succeed" that you really feel the exact opposite. I want this market to succeed too, and I hope that it is a market where all classes of people can have access to farm fresh foods. I would love to get together to have further conversation about this subject and can be reached at

  16. So, ireadco, let's put aside the canard of someone who shops at the farmers market and likes the prices and the food there "wanting it to fail." That's just unnecessary.

    Okay. Is it NAHN's policy for volunteers to run after people and ask them to donate the food they just bought?

    If so, I suggest you change it. It turns people off.

    If not, then it wasn't your organization that did it, so there's nothing for you to be defensive about.

  17. Everybody should take a second, relax, and get over it! Cattiness is not a good look. Nor is pettiness. Maybe we should address the bigger issues and worry about the solicitors another time. I have been to said Farmers Market at least once a month since it has opened and not once run into any problems.

    What happened to all the gang violence outrage? I offered my help and asked people to contact me if they could help set up a "problem building" network where we can share info over the internet and put pressure on buildings/problem residents. I got two responses.

    Then, I read a post like this one and wonder to myself, do people actually give a shit about these things or are people just complaining to complain? Seriously, for all of the hoopla and outrage over the violence in Uptown, I am ashamed at the almost nonexistent rate at which we are fighting back.

    I don't want to wait for another shooting and then hear "attend your CAPs meetings blah blah blah"
    I would prefer to show up to a CAPS meeting with so much evidence and information that the police are shocked to see how proactive we have become.

  18. Really Will, pass an ordinance making it 'impossible' - did you mean illegal? - to accept more than 99 cents in coinage? That is just silly, not to mention impossible. And yes, I do get where you are coming from.

  19. Listen to you people arguing over the validity of calling 911, defining someone's right to loiter, and all manner of stupid socioeconomic agendas. Could be be any more petty?

    If I'm walking alone in Uptown, people saw me spending money, walking away with packages, and i hear someone running up behind me, it would scare the crap out of me! Panhandler or purse snatcher?

    Seriously, Weiss is an island in a sea of bad behavior. What's to say that the person chasing after you wanted more than a donation? Whats to say that the moment they get in front of you they dont ask for your keys, wallet, cellphone or worse? People are getting robbed in their garages in Uptown folks

    So when I read someone's trite comment of "Everybody should take a second, relax, and get over it!" I feel a slow burn. If that was your wife with a kid in a stroller, carrying packages and perhaps with a false sense of safety just be cause it's a Farmer's Market in the middle of the day, doesn't mean it's not cause for caution.

    And before everyone piles on me about this, it's all "paranoia"...till you get mugged.

  20. I was informed that a woman affiliated with a nonprofit organization was at the farmers' market requesting donations for a local organization that provides food and other services to the poor. This woman approached a man requesting a donation. When he didn't respond, she assumed he didn't hear her. Clearly, the civil thing to do would be to say "no, sorry" and move on. Instead, the person responded in an unkind way and shortly thereafter this comment was posted. Coincidence? Perhaps showing some civility through kindness of acknowledgement would go farther than unfair criticism of an innocent request.