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cap full of coinsSociology PhD student Travis Reitsma has issued an appeal to help fund his research into local panhandlers.

Student seeking support for sociology fieldwork

Doctoral student Travis Reitsma hopes to understand panhandling as a coping mechanism for extreme poverty: Why do people choose to panhandle? What sorts of barriers do they face in their day-to-day lives?

To that end, he will conduct an ethnography of panhandling in Windsor as his PhD dissertation project in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology.

“Poverty is a serious problem in Windsor, as it is in every community across Canada,” Reitsma says. “Yet so much of how people cope with it is misunderstood.”

He says that misunderstanding can harm the poor, leading to hurtful legislation, inadequate social services, and public backlash.

“This study will help render clear the cascading barriers people in poverty face and why many of them are forced to cope by participating in non-traditional ways of making ends meet,” he says. “It will also give voice to a marginalized community that is often ignored by mainstream culture.”

Reitsma plans to spend months hanging around with local panhandlers, conducting interviews and observing their work. At the end of the fieldwork, he will assemble transcripts and notes to churn out a dissertation.

He has turned to crowdfunding to help him cover the costs of the project.

“To gain the trust of the panning community, I need to be visible every day, which means providing change, cigarettes, food, and other items for panhandlers while I hang out with them,” says Reitsma. “To this point, I’ve been paying for this out of my own pocket and I can’t afford to keep doing it.”

His campaign has already attracted support and, he notes, everything will go to the participants and to the cost of research. He pledges to donate any surplus funds to local anti-poverty organizations.

Learn more on his GoFundMe site.