Back in my field work days, there was a well known identity who could often be found outside the Bay Street entrance to Coles. The bench he would often occupy was referred to by some as his ‘office’, but some other people referred to him as the ‘dirty man’ rather than by his name. He might not have been universally embraced and some may have avoided conversations with him, but I was never aware of any serious interest from anyone in having him ‘move on’.
Not so much a well known identity, but a somewhat familiar face, was the much lankier man who would sometimes ask for money in that area, often closer to the Liardet Street entrance. I never really heard people complain about being asked for money, but nor did he seem to have a recognised identity that contributed to him being ‘part of Port Melbourne’. My guess at the time was that the wide footpath and multiple entrances meant that if somebody did not want to be engaged, they did not have to be.
Outside the IGA on King Street in Newtown (an inner suburb of Sydney) , there are those who set themselves up asking for money. Crowds can be thick and the space is very limited. Often it seems lucky that the person is (or people are) crouched on a low window sill or a milk crate as there is space above their head for people to navigate their way through with a couple of bags of groceries. It feels like everyone is pushed into close quarters regardless of their reason for occupying the space. However, the power differential between the person who can choose to give and the person asking is played out with this height imbalance. At the same time, the self proclaimed ‘grittiness‘ of Newtown can be staged for residents and visitors alike.
Returning to the inner suburbs of Melbourne, this is a slightly different set up to the Coles on Johnston Street in Fitzroy, near the corner of Brunswick Street. Here, as outside the IGA in Newtown, there are often people asking for money but they can use the bus shelter which faces the door, either sitting on the bench or on the floor. The footpath is wider and there is less through traffic, so perhaps it is not such an issue.
I wonder how other people experience being asked for money in these different spaces.