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Everything You Think You Know About Panhandlers Is Wrong By Scott Keyes

A new survey of panhandlers in downtown San Francisco dispels a number of myths that society propagates about homeless people. Conventional wisdom is that those on the sidewalk asking for a dollar are lazy freeloaders who will use the money for alcohol or drugs. Some even think that beggars are living large off of handouts, such as Fox News’ John Stossel, who has bravely used his television perch to take on beggars. “I had heard that some people beg for a living and make big bucks — $80,000 a year in some cases,” Stossel told Fox & Friends. “You really shouldn’t give to these street people,” Stossel concluded. “You are really supporting alcoholism and drug problems.” Researchers wanted to test out whether this widely held view of panhandlers as lazy alcoholics getting rich off others was correct. The Union Square Business Improvement District, a collection of 500 property owners in downtown San Francisco, hired GLS Research to survey panhandlers over a two-day period in March.

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