Feedback from a reader on the homeless and panhandling

I received a great e-mail from one of my regular readers this morning, and am quoting the entire thing here, with her permission. If anyone has ideas to help with the questions she poses in the second half of her message, e-mail me and I’ll put you in touch with her.


Just reading the newsletter of Calvary Church, the Chronicle, and thought your readers might benefit from a bit of the info about their ministry to the homeless done through their HUB.
The HUB gives NO money or anything of monetary value. The volunteers are trained very much in spotting scam artists. They provide help in getting a TN. photo i.d. card, plus SS cards and birth certificates for any state in the nation. This is important for the homeless in getting them into shelters, when they get stopped by the police, etc.

The HUB is also an oasis from hot or cold weather, a place to get a cup of coffee, water, fruit, reading material, informational resources, lockers for up to 30 days. No services are duplicated to the homeless by any other ministries. Calvary Church has years of experience in dealing with panhandlers and the homeless, and runs a very organized, tight ship.

Volunteers and donations are needed. The HUB is located at 146 Jefferson next to the Chinese restaurant. It is open Mon-Wed-Fri from 1:00 to 4:00.

I sure do wish a comprehensive brochure that details all the resources for the homeless located in the downtown area could be prepared and distributed all over downtown, to the businesses and restaurants and hotels, and given out by the Blue Suede crew to people they see giving money to panhandlers. This could be a brochure similar to the ones put out by the 12-step groups that show all the places and times of meetings. I think this would help visitors to Memphis realize these people do not need their money.

I also wish there were some signs placed at trolley stops, near hotels, etc. that state in plain English, large letters, “Do not give money to the panhandlers. There are plenty of places downtown where they can get water, shelter, help. They are usually NOT homeless. Support the downtown charities.”

Who would be the go-to person to get these things accomplished, in your opinion? Is there something like this already in existence? Thanks, Paul!

Happy hour appetizers at the Westin’s Daily Grill: A big hit

Last night I finally made it to Happy Hour at the Daily Grill in the Westin, and was very, very impressed. As I had been told, they have a happy hour mini-appetizer menu consisting of smaller portions of their regular menu items for $2.95 each. I ordered two of the items, pictured below.

This is what they call their “miniature” chicken pot pie – it sure didn’t look miniature to me! I stretched all the fingers of my hand out and it just about covered the pot pie, to give you an idea of its size. This thing is a meal in itself. I’ve heard that the full-sized version of the pot pie is about the size of Big Foot’s Sasquatch burger. My food took about 20 minutes to arrive, and at first I thought, “What’s taking them so long,” but then I remembered that I ordered a chicken pot pie, and realized that was a sign that they were preparing it from scratch and baking it in a real oven, not reheating it in a microwave. Very, very good.

The other appetizer I ordered was the seared ahi tuna sashimi, encrusted in black and white sesame seeds and served with wasabi, ginger and soy sauce. Again, delicious and just unbelievable that this cost less than three bucks.

I took notes on the other happy hour menu items. They are

  • Fried calamari
  • Popcorn shrimp
  • Spinach artichoke dip
  • Chicken quesadilla
  • Queso Fundido with various ingredients including ground sirloin
  • Hummus with flatbread and cucumbers
  • Side Kicks – two mini cheeseburgers with melted cheddar, Thousand Island, lettuce and tomato
  • Crab cake Side Kicks with remoulade sauce
  • Onion rings with blue cheese

I was delighted with my meal, but as I ate, I thought, “How can they possibly be making any money on this?” I got my answer when my bill arrived – the two apps were $2.95 each, but the pint of Blue Moon I had with dinner was an astronomical $5.75!!! For comparison, a pint of Blue Moon at the Saucer is $4. I had expected to pay more, considering I was dining at a very nice hotel, but I was thinking it would be more in the range of 5 bucks, rather than almost 6.

With that taken into consideration, would I still call it a good value overall? Yes. Those two apps still would have been a great deal at a dollar more apiece, and that would have brought the Blue Moon down to regular price as compared to other bars in the area.

Do I plan to go back? Absolutely, and often. Next time I think I’ll go with the crab cake Side Kicks, and either the queso or the hummus.

My early voting experience

Just got back from early voting. King Willie claimed in his press conference that there were problems with the machines, particularly that if you touched the screen near the top line above a candidate’s name, it would register as a vote for the wrong candidate. So I tried several times to do this and see if it would register a vote for the wrong person. In every case the vote was recorded correctly.

In addition, if you see that the machine registered the vote for the wrong candidate, you have the chance to correct it. All you have to do is touch your candidate’s name again, hopefully a little more accurately, and it unchecks the wrong candidate’s box and checks the correct one.

There are large text and high-contrast options available for those with vision problems. There’s a poll worker available for help if you don’t understand how to use the machine.

Plus, at the end of the ballot it summarizes the candidates you voted for. If any of the votes appear incorrect, you have the chance to back up and make corrections before casting your ballot.

My verdict: I don’t see how anyone could possibly mess up voting on those machines, given the multiple chances given to correct errors. I’ll say it again – I’m not surprised at all that the people who are too dumb to use these machines are the same people who support Willie Herenton.

Quote from Herman Morris

In preparation to early vote, I’ve been reading questionnaires filled out by the candidates on Here’s a quote from Herman Morris:

“I will insist police officers get out of their cars and make contact with the community they are charged to protect and serve.”

BRAVO, Herman.

I was also very impressed with Trennie Williams’ questionnaire (Super District 8, Seat 2).

Heading to the Election Commission to early vote now.

Hmmm… Morris must be doing well in the early voting

Just caught the circus, er, I mean, press conference orchestrated by King Willie. There were actually two separate conferences, one with Herenton the mayor and one with Herenton the candidate. One of his comments was that Morris cannot mathematically win the race, and that the race is between Herenton and Carol Chumney.

To me, that indicates that his staff has been doing some exit polling, and Morris must be doing better than expected. So Willie is trying to play him off as a non-factor as an attempt to split the anti-Herenton vote.

Herenton also questioned the integrity of the Election Commission and its workers, played the race card, asked for federal monitoring, blah blah blah blah blah.

I’m going to walk down to the Election Commission office and early vote this afternoon – for Herman Morris.

A sense of community in Uptown

My friend Kaleigh, an Uptown resident and fellow Rhodes grad, writes a blog called The Musings of Yet Another Working Mom. She and her husband and two kids bought a house in Uptown two years ago, and today she wrote a great post about the changes that are happening in the neighborhood. Her blog is one to keep an eye on… we hear about what’s going on in Uptown in Henry Turley’s press releases, but this is an opportunity to find out about the neighborhood from someone who’s there, living it.

She’s also starting an Uptown book club. Check her blog for more details about that. The first book is about the collapse and rebuilding of American community, and will be discussed the last week of October, right before the second annual Uptown Chili Smackdown.

If you decide you like Kaleigh’s writing and you like to cook, check out her other blog, Another Working Mom Cooks, too. She’s in a rather unique position of cooking for two family members who are vegetarians and two who are not, and lucky enough to have children who like to eat healthy.

Plans for this evening

One of my readers e-mailed and reminded me that I still need to try the Daily Grill’s happy hour, inside the Westin Hotel. During happy hour they have miniature versions of their appetizers for $2.99 each, and the reader who e-mailed recommended the seared ahi tuna, hummus with pitas, and mini-crab cake sandwiches. So I think I’ll give that a try tonight.

My plan is to hit the Daily Grill about 5:30, then walk to Court Square for “Bands, Beer and Bums.” This week’s entertainment: Sal Crocker and the Strictly Jazz Quartet. Wonder if the crackhead who has VCRs to sell will be back this week. If anyone wants to join me, feel free.

King Willie to hold press conference at 11; wants early voting halted

Mayor Herenton will hold a press conference at 11 AM this morning. He claims that the voting machines being used to early-vote for the mayoral and city council races are defective. He says he has received “numerous complaints” about the machines, and will ask the Election Commission to stop early voting.

I bet the mayor’s campaign staff have been doing a little exit-polling at the early voting locations, and have discovered that things aren’t going their way. Why am I not surprised that the people who are too dumb to understand how to use a voting machine are the ones who are voting for Willie?

This man is unbelievable. PLEASE go to the polls and vote for Morris, Chumney or whomever you feel is most qualified to lead the city.

I was going to go to a coffee shop and work this morning, but I guess I’ll have to do it from home so I can be in front of the TV and watch our mayor make an ass of himself. Again.

The bums and the homeless

Those of you who live or work Downtown: You know the bum with the tumor below his ear lobe? Can’t remember which ear. Well, he was begging at Second and Peabody Place tonight. He engaged a sweet girl in conversation about midnight. She waved money around, then came into the Saucer. I thought she was looking to get change for a 20 to give to him, and I stopped her. “This guy has been panhandling Downtown for years,” I told her. “He knows what he’s doing. This is all part of his plan.”

“I know he’s addicted to crack cocaine,” she told me. “I’m not stupid. But I’m getting him something to eat.” Of course, there are a dozen locations Downtown – the mission, churches, other organizations – where he can get food to eat during the week. He should never have to go hungry. And as I’ve said, I’ve seen him in the area for at least 5 years. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to get food if he really wants it – without begging. And he’s a drug addict.

I admired this woman’s desire to help those in need – but this was not a person in need. If you’re reading this – he was *** USING *** you. You are not helping him by feeding him. You are not “helping the homeless” – you’re enabling. You are not “doing as Jesus would do” – not that I go to church that often, but as I understood it Jesus gave people the help they needed, not the help they wanted. Of course the bum didn’t turn down the free meal, but with his belly full that was one less thing he had to worry about – it freed him up to beg for money for crack.

If you really want to give out handouts on the street, you’d be far better giving socks, hygiene items, candy bars, etc., rather than restaurant meals. I came across a charity at Cooper-Young Fest that does an awesome job taking first steps to integrate the homeless – true homeless, not bums – back into society. I want to talk to the Executive Director to see how we can best help but I’ll be mentioning them soon.

I’ll step off my drunken soapbox now. The Rapscallions won first place in trivia, bringing our total to $145.