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Wednesday, March 16. 2016
However, as he passes one fellow, he collects a business card. In handing the card, the charitable soul says "This is a soup kitchen nearby, you can bring your children here and get hot meals."
The fellow looks up and replies, "Free food? Here, in Manhattan?"
"So I can bring my kids?"
"So you're saying I have to travel up to the Bronx to get my daughter, then travel down to Brooklyn to get my son, then bring them both with me to Manhattan to get free food? Is that what you're telling me I have to do?"
"Sir, you don't have to do anything. It's free food. It's your choice, but it's a place to go."
He didn't get angry, didn't cause a scene. But it occurred to me if he was really destitute, this wouldn't be an issue. I realize some panhandlers are professional. There is one who sits by my office with a dog and a sign that "the dog comes first, I come second." I'd say he's been there for 3 years, except it's not a he. It's a them. There are 3 or 4 different people who switch out on any given day.
I don't mind giving money to people in need. There's a limit, though. When the ability to get a free meal prompts the kind of response I heard on the train, alarm bells go off. If you're in need, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes, everything requires work, even 'free stuff'. It's not as if his tromping through train cars isn't work. If he has real money issues, I'm sure he's not covering his costs by panhandling all day. But he must be doing well enough to keep doing it, and he should realize that it requires significant effort.
If this sounds like someone who has what he needs criticizing someone who is without, I'm sorry. That's not my intent. I'm not judging these people, I'm simply saying work is work. A 'free' lunch of any kind requires effort. It's a shame we don't have a political class that understands this when they make promises to people with money that isn't theirs.
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The downtown core of Ottawa is "Panhandler Central" (in no small part because the number of missions located there).
When I was at our National Defence Headquarters, I'd often encounter "spare-changers". Frequently, I'd stop and say, "I won't give you any change but I am heading to Tim Hortons/Starbucks for a coffee. I'd be happy to bring you a bun or a sandwich and a coffee on my way back."
Many of the panhandlers just weren't interested in such offers (an obvious admission that they wanted the money for something quite different to consume than food or coffee).
But, every now and then, some poor guy would take me up on the offer and was genuinely happy to get that sandwich and coffee when I returned.
My granddaughter commented, If they are broke how can they afford the magic marker to make their signs?
I think I'd be really cruel if I went that far. But it is a funny (if not directly applicable) observation. The mouths of kids.
Several years ago, there was a TV news story about panhandlers in our area. They generally SAID they wanted a job but when somebody offered them one, there was always a reason why they couldn't do it. One guy said he was saving up his panhandling revenue to start his own business!
Everything has a price - even free food - if only the effort to get to it.
Yeah, used to be a series of panhandlers at the intersection of Route 7 and the connector to the interstate on the south edge of Burlington VT. Social workers/LEO's checked it out and turns out they had about $90,000 in a bank account. Begging was really lucrative, and that was a prime spot
When I lived in California last there were two parking lots for businesses a few hundred yards apart where a group 3-6 people would take turns holding the sign "hungry, homeless, anything helps, god bless". Those not holding the sign could be seen without to much looking sitting in the brushy area drinking and sometimes sleeping. They were polite and never offensive or pushy but they had the same "disease" that all/most of the homeless do which is a chemical dependence and/or mental illness. How do you help someone like this. Certainly giving them money doesn't "help" them.
recently, at a church service, the local head of the salvation army chapter was invited in to give a sermon and talk about homelessness. what he said surprised me...first, about 80 to 85 % of all homeless are generally in need and will only find themselves in that position once in their entire lives. they don't want to be homeless. they do what is required, while receiving the help they need, to lift themselves out. the rest, he said, are hardcore. it is like a habit that needs to be broken, and they are very difficult to reach, no matter what you do for them. these are the people you see sleeping on benches, urinating in public and the like. so after that, my penchant to hand money to people on the street has ceased. i will offer food or direct them to the salvation army, church or shelter, but no more money.
my dad always told me, "you can't help someone unless they want to be helped".
From the story: "I have to travel up to the Bronx to get my daughter, then travel down to Brooklyn to get my son, then bring them both with me to Manhattan to get free food?"
I don't get that part. If his children are living with relatives in two different corners of the city, why would he have to fetch them to go to a soup kitchen located in a third corner?
Without knowing how old the kids are, I'm assuming they can't travel by subway on their own. Even if they could, there is the time and cost ($2.75 these days, $5.50 round trip) of riding what is essentially the cheapest form of transport.
To be honest, I'm sure there are soup kitchens in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, so the idea of bringing kids to Manhattan for a soup kitchen is odd - but it's the thought that counts. The guy was being charitable and offering a potential solution to a part of the 'problem'.
Many people are unaware of the public facilities available on offer - let alone the private. So having someone inform you of an option is a very good form of charity.
Never give to people begging for money. Many are professional panhandlers and make more money than you do. The rest will use the money for drugs or alcohol. And in the worst case, you are setting yourself up for assault or robbery.
There are plenty of government and public charity resources available, most of which are not fully utilized.
Among a lot of other beggars we have a couple here; he would pretend to have a stroke and have a brace on his leg and walk with a limp and hold his arm up like it was paralyzed. She would pretend to be mildly mentally retarded and had a phony pregnancy. His schtick would be to say he was thrown out of work and couldn't buy food for his poor girlfriend. They would go around the bus stops downtown, begging for money.
One day I saw them at the movie theater at the shopping center (in a nice part of town) without their costumes. Laughing it up and having a great time.
Now whenever I see them, I tell them to "f**** off and get lost or I'm calling the cops." They now scatter when they see me in the vicinity.
The worst was the babysitter who used to bring the kids she was baby sitting down and beg for money. I called Child Protective Services on her.
As a Manhattan resident, I ask all visitors to our town to please, please not give to panhandlers, particularly on the subway.
I take the subway to work regularly, and have for 40+ years. As far as I can tell, there is not a single legitimate panhandler. You see the same people over and over, although they try to rotate around the trains; but they still come back to the same spot every few months. My favorite is the overweight woman who looks about 7 months pregnant, and uses a claim of pregnancy in her pitch. Problem is, she's been the same 7 months pregnant for the past 5 years.
Easily 90% of the pitches involve something about being "hungry." That should be a sure giveaway that the pitch is a lie, but somehow a couple of people in nearly every subway car fall for it. There's not one, but more like 20 places in Manhattan to go for free food. And there are comparable numbers of places in the other boroughs. And, of course, food stamps, available to any unemployed person. But there are no comparable places to get free drugs. That requires cash.
Based on my observations of how long it takes a beggar to work a subway car and average take per car, I calculate that a competent beggar can easily make a couple of hundred dollars per day. I do suspect that it diminishes as people come to recognize you.
As a manhattanite, I agree with Mr. Menton. There are abundant social services here for which residents are taxed. I've seen the same reaction by beggars when that is pointed out to them. I've seen beggars at the end of the day with wads of cash on them. There are a lot of tourists in New York; those are the people who give. The jaded New Yorkers who've heard these spiels for years don't.
My standard reaction upon seeing a soft-hearted rookie reach for her purse is to quietly but firmly request "Please don't feed the animals."
It's earned me some unpleasant looks, but I console myself knowing that I'm not the one trying to take people's hard-earned money so I can get my next bottle of fortified wine.
I'd cut this particular guy a break. If he has no money or is really hard up, how could he afford to travel all over NY with his kids to get a free meal? Doesn't that defeat the purpose...spending dough on subway tickets to get a free meal far from home? Sort of stupid.
However, the guy should've been gracious and said, "Thanks" rather than talk about what a dumb idea it was.
There was no way to know that the children were in different households (different mothers?). The work could be finding out if there were kitchen near his children. Yes, it would be work, but if he truly wants to feed his kids he would do it.
Several years back, a black woman with 2 kids was standing very close to my local grocery store asking for money for food so she could feed the kids.
I gave her 10 bucks. Her response - she grabbed the kids and walked across the parking lot to the donut shop. She bought a small bag of donuts, then went next door to the smoke shop.
Done. No more. Not interested.
Yep, I'm cold as ice. I never give MONEY to beggars on the street. Never!
Several years ago a friend who worked for a non-profit that helped the unemployable get jobs gave me a stack of her business cards listing the phone number and address of her organization.
She instructed me to hand it to the person, first asking if they can read, and if they can here's a place that will help you. (If they say they cannot read; then read them the address and say that it is on the card she told me)
Not a single person who I gave those cards to ever showed up. Not. a. single. one. I must have handed out about 50 over the course of a couple of years; about one or two a month.
So, no, most of those on the streets are living there by choice or they are mentally ill and there is very little that your money will do to help them.
Another friend of mine used to offer to buy meals; nope, no takers. They want cash only!
The only thing I have given is if I see someone who is obviously homeless and minding their own business I have given food. Usually an apple or orange from a bag of the same that I bought. Almost all of them are VERY grateful - saying thank you and may God bless you. Often those that are sitting when I offer them the fruit will stand up as they say thank you; I may be reading into it, But, I somehow or other think they are standing as a sign of gratitude.
But, I never give where I frequent - again I'm cold as ice - as I don't want to be seen as a source with them expecting me to give every time they see me.
And, yea, I AM cold, the usual suspects who sit on the ground right in front of a busy walkway or right in front of the subway entrance I just want to kick down the stairs! They know darn well that they are blocking the path; but, they don't care. (New York World Trade Center; "Lonely, cold, scared, and ashamed" I am referring to YOU! You've been in that same spot for over 5 years with your same sign claiming the same emotions BLOCKING everyone. Just move out of the way already, you selfish idiot!)
P.S. for whatever it is worth, that fellow in the story would have spent over $15 in subway fares to pick up his kids to get that free meal. I'm sure that would have dug into his "winnings" that day. But, still, he could not have been that desperate to take care of his kids if he wasn't willing to spend that. In fact, if his story is true he can get SNAP to feed his kids. Ha! He probably already has some sort of government handout for his kids, if not for himself.
I quit handing money to beggars years ago and came up with a better solution that usually separates the needy from the moochers - I carry a few cans (pop top type) of food in my car and hand these out instead. If they're really looking for a meal - instead of money for drugs, cigarettes, booze, hookers, etc. - they're glad to get it. I usually keep an eye on my rear view mirror as I drive away to see if the keep it or toss it.
I hope that I would share your observations and feelings should I be found in a similar circumstance.
I could not help noting how much of your article amounted to a proactive defense of your thoughts. This is indicative of the prevailing social attitude that we must not judge the actions and feelings of others.
When people know that anything they do will enjoy insulation from any public reaction they tend to be less restrained than they used to be. This is exactly why our society is tumbling down the stairs in terms of being polite and considerate to each other. We dare not object to anything lest we come under withering responses that demand we remain passive and quiet.
In my own area, the pan-handlers park their vehicles at a Walmart that is near where a major highway meets the interstate. They retrieve signs that were stashed in the bushes, bring out their puppies and wait for suckers to hand them cash.
Out of work, car broke, out of gas, need food, God bless! (Veteran!)
Its a living, well at least a sufficient tax-free income that supports these grifters.
I don't think it is wise to judge people. I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt, then let their words and actions guide me. Even after they have proven (or disproved) my first impression, judgement isn't something I will typically pass. I do make exceptions.
I will make exceptions for the extraordinarily rude. I will make exceptions for those who engage in personal attacks. I will make exceptions for those who consistently tout a point of view which is misguided, ignorant and unwilling to consider objective truth/fact.
Yes, I proactively defended my position, but not because of society. Because I would prefer to be the Good Samaritan, if I am incapable of doing so, then I should be prepared to explain why.
At some point in time God may ask why I didn't help that fellow, even when I was prepared to at the start. I think my observations support my decision.
Francis Menton, in the comments above, I know lives in NYC (I read his EXCELLENT blog). He believes we shouldn't give a penny to any of them. I generally agree with him, but I do make exceptions. I just happen to be very careful how I make those exceptions.
I have still be burned, but at least I've taken the time to make observations and determine general need or difficulty. People who have approached me on the train for money for a ticket will be offered a ticket, not money. That usually changes their response. Food, in lieu of money, will also yield some results.
But there really are legitimate poor people. I don't believe we can pass laws restricting panhandling (Poor Laws tend to only cause the poor to wind up worse off), but I do believe we can learn to be observant and still be caring.
I used to give cash to homeless / needy when I lived in Europe as a young man. After spending years working in Washington D.C. I decided to do this no longer. In D.C. i worked long hours and was familiar with the panhandlers at the various Metro stations that slept on the heating vents.
At least once a week or more if there were a special offer going on, I would buy about two dozen burgers and pass them out to my "friends" on the street. I got to know who would actually be grateful and who was just after money. I did give one guy $50 for a coat that he was happy to show me a few days later.
The lesson for me was that panhandlers are people too. Some of them are grateful and some not. Some are slaves to their own addictions or mental problems, but they are people. I don't trust them with cash, but I try to help a little where I can. I have been taken advantage of in the past, but I would much rather be taken advantage of than not have helped someone who really needed it.
Playing with the kids outside Chick-fil-A in Cookeville, TN. Man walks up says something about needing to get to Nashville Rescue Mission-- that they have accommodations for him or some such and if he could only have a few dollars towards bus fare (legit in the way that Greyhound 'terminal' is less than a mile away)
I said, "I live near there. I'll drive you."
His reply, "Oh not right now."
And he shuffled off.
Nashville and surrounding areas have somewhat legitimized panhandling with "The Contributor" thing (or as some call it "The Enabler").
The Professional Poor, the Idle Poor and the Poverty Traders:
... And so operate the Professional Poor, a class of people with whom I have, unfortunately, a very intimate familiarity. The Professional Poor are people who make their careers and their incomes out of always being one rent payment away from eviction, one tank of gas away from not being at their dying mother's bedside, one meal away from starvation, one unfilled prescription away from deathly illness. Their vocation is begging. Their client base is anyone who looks likely, but especially pastors, church people and (I don't know how they can tell this, but they can) the guilty-feeling well to do."
When I worked in the Chicago financial district, there were always about a dozen "regular" panhandlers hanging around the plaza by the CBOE. I learned an important lesson from those panhandlers. I never offered money but I often offered to buy them a sandwich. At the time a McDonalds was open on Van Buren and Financial Place.
One day a panhandler approached me with his usual spiel. I told him I was heading to McDonalds and would happily get him a value meal. So I did. Upon returning and gifting him this meal, he proceeded to throw the drink at me. I dodged it but it was a close thing.
Sucker that I am, I got another value meal for a panhandler a few weeks later. He also threw the drink at me. (In retrospect they were both doing it for a laugh... get the white collar guy all wet and sticky for his afternoon.)
After that, I still bought the occasional sandwich but never a drink. When they'd ask, "Hey, Bro, what about my drink?" I'd tell them that I'm tired of dodging flying Diet Coke. Got a laugh out of them 100% of the time.
Take them at their word: if they say they need food, give them a meal; if they say they need transportation, give them a ride; if they say they need a job, give them work; if they say they need gasoline, fill their tank; if they say they need shelter, find them a place to stay.
Goods and services fill genuine needs. If cash is the only thing they will accept, this should tell you all you need to know.
Wow; I AM coldhearted. Reading some of these comments I cannot help but think - there is NO WAY I would ever offer a panhandler a ride! Nope, never going to happen. NEVER.
While they might not be looking to rob me; why would I tempt them?
Jeees, I'm coldhearted; but, also not stupid.