Even the 12-inch snowstorm Wednesday night hasn’t stopped local panhandlers from coming to Penn to solicit students at 2 a.m.
The same day, a local Philadelphia woman named Joyce Bradshaw was busy making her usual spare-me-a-dollar rounds at McDonald’s on 40th and Walnut streets.
Bradshaw, a wiry figure holding her pants above the sludge, was braving the cold to solicit bills to “buy a chicken at the market” for dinner.
“They’re nice here,” said Bradshaw, who was watching the 2 a.m. crowd line up inside for a late-night snack. “They just nice children.”
Bradshaw, a former employee of the McDonald’s, explained she was fired five years ago for “cussing a customer out” but still comes to pocket a few bills before getting on the last train to Southwest Philadelphia.
The total for the night was $3, and she was back at Penn by morning the next day.
Solicitations at Penn still take place even with the newly instated “Code Blue,” a citywide measure put into effect on Jan. 6 to bring homeless individuals to shelters in sub-20 degree Fahrenheit weather.
A few University City solicitors, such as Bradshaw, have opted out of available shelter beds, saying the shelter is “too dirty,” and that they prefer the street instead. Fresh Grocer and McDonald’s, with their casual dining, are popular destinations for loiterers on Penn’s campus.
“Usually we get three to five homeless people a night,” McDonald’s Store Manager Damian Tull said. “If we see they’re not buying anything, we let them sit for 30 minutes,” even though there is a “No Loitering” sign.
However, students and West Philadelphia residents who have been solicited during lunch hour at fast-food chains, or outside coffee shops in the morning, said they don’t mind the panhandling.
College freshman Rachel Marcus, for one, considers solicitations part of an urban education.
“I’m used to it,” Marcus said. “I’m from Manhattan.”
“I feel if you come from a city, it shouldn’t scare you,” she added.
Engineering senior Abhi Hendi and 2010 College graduate Jon Pinkerton choose to ignore campus solicitors. “I don’t fault them for asking,” said Pinkerton, a current employee at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Those not used to homeless solicitations just shouldn’t come to Penn,” Hendi said.
In the winter, retail shops expect homeless individuals to take cover indoors at some campus hotspots, including the second floor of Fresh Grocer and coffee shops along 40th Street.
Metropolitan Bakery, located at 4013 Walnut St., deals infrequently with homeless people during restaurant hours, with the exception of a Vietnam veteran named Gilbert, according to baristas.
“Well, he’s not exactly homeless,” Aubrey Richter, a barista, said of the West Philadelphia resident. “But he hangs out here most of the time.”
Gilbert gets to Metropolitan Bakery before the store opens at 7 a.m. “He keeps a tab with us that he pays every month,” she said.
“As long as customers have seats, we don’t mind,” Richter added. “He’s a little funny. He was shot in the head in Vietnam.”
Fresh Grocer assistant manager Tammy Furber used “Code Blue” earlier this week after finding a homeless frequenter sleeping on the second floor with seven-degree weather outside.
“A police car came to take her,” Furber said. “She looked a bit confused when she woke up.”
“They had to wait as she got on all her winter clothes,” Furber added. “It took her an hour to go from upstairs to a police car.”
According to Furber, the woman was in the shelter home for a couple days, then appeared at Fresh Grocer again.
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