Officials: Panhandling in Portland on rise

PORTLAND, Maine – If it appears that you are seeing more panhandlers on Portland’s city streets these days, officials at the Preble Street Resource Center say you are.

Working with police and the United Way, the center is about to launch a study to find out what has caused the sudden influx and what they can do about it to help the men and women on the streets.

But, they also say the greater numbers are creating safety issues, not for the public but the panhandlers themselves, especially during the winter months.

Jon Bradley with Portland’s Preble Resource Center said he is not sure where the increase in panhandling is coming from. He said he has launched a study in hopes of better identifying what has been going on.

“We’ve seen a real growth in the number of panhandlers,” Bradley said. “That’s really how we would target the group, is really try to figure out alternatives that are safer, that are better, that they would feel better about.”

Police said public complaints about panhandling have increased about 47 percent.

Jerry, a panhandler who frequents the corner of State and Park streets, said the growing number of panhandlers has created tension among themselves.

“People have to watch each other’s back out here now,” he said.

Other panhandlers said they will stick it out, despite any dangers they might face, in order to survive.

“I get my 20 bucks, 15 bucks here; that gets me by,” a panhandler named Joe said.

Portland’s City Council voted to outlaw panhandling on medians last summer, but the measure failed.