Beggars with Signs

This may have been covered before, but I’m going to ask anyway.

What’s the deal with the people that stand by a mall or by/in an intersection with a sign that says that they are stranded, a veteran, jobless, etc and need money? I feel bad that I don’t give them anything but I also feel it’s more than likely a scam. One day there was a man with his dog holding a sign. I happened to be at a red light at the time so I rolled down my window, gave him $5, and told him to buy his dog some treats. That was the one and only time I’ve given a handout.

One time (years ago) I had my 5-year-old granddaughter in the car with me. She asked about a beggar we saw standing by Walmart. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but something like - I don’t give them money because they should get a job, blah, blah, blah. She said, “Well, you could give him some money, just to be kind”. :anguished: UGH - I felt terrible. I think of that every time I see a sign-holder.

Do you give money?

Sometimes I do. Usually I don’t. On one hand, whether a “scam” or not, these people need money and I can spare a few bucks. On the other hand, I know it’s not the best way to offer assistance.

This book, written about a homeless guy in my area, softened by heart a bit. (it’s a really good read if anyone cares to wade in)

https://www.amazon.com/Breakfast-Sallys-Homeless-Inspirational-Journey-ebook/dp/B004T2LKOA

Having had to do this as a child, I find I sometimes have a soft spot for panhandlers. I will give in a lot of circumstances because a dollar or two doesn’t hurt my budget and may keep them alive. Also,if the sign holder has something clever or creative, I give and tell them it is money they have earned by making me laugh.

I don’t usually give them anything. Once, there was a guy sitting outside a gas station on Christmas Day. He had begged in that location before but he wasn’t saying anything and had his head down that day. Sign: “I got the shit beat out of me last night. Anything helps.” I could see his face had been bloodied. I dropped some money in his jar.

If the money goes for drugs, have you really helped them? For those who still want to help I’d suggest handing them a hamburger instead of the money to buy one. I knew a woman who carried packs of cheese crackers because the beggars always had their kids at the stoplight with them, and she wanted to feed the kids. Fine—the parents gave her dirty looks because she wasn’t playing the game, however. So give to a charity that deals with them regularly and knows what’s what.

There’s a huge variety of reasons people panhandle. Many of them are homeless and need money. Quite often, the reason they are panhandling is because of issues with drugs or alcohol. Some people are just trying to make money and can’t get a job for one reason or another. Some people are just living a vagabond’s life and use the money to survive. Even if they are just making about the same as minimum wage, they may find it preferable to stand on the corner instead of having a menial job.

The messages on the signs are likely contrived to get people to donate. The panhandler is not out of gas, trying to raise bus fare, trying to pay for a child’s cancer treatment, or anything like that. They are trying to elicit an emotional response so you feel compelled to give.

I can understand donating, but it’s probably better for them and for society if you don’t. If no one gave them money, they would need to turn to social services. By giving them money, they can stay outside the system and society won’t try to address their needs. If they are there because of drug or alcohol problems, even giving them food means they can instead spend that money on their vice.

As a young man I once gave, what was to me at the time, a very large amount to one with a specific need written on a cardboard sign. The dollar amount was at least twice as much as the cost of the stated need. I then drove away and watched to see what their response would be. Instead of leaving they stayed at the corner to earn more.

I wasn’t terribly surprised but it did make me less inclined to give next time. It was an early education in human nature.

I don’t contribute to panhandlers.

Some panhandlers aren’t homeless, but they might still need money. I would rather give money to a shelter or a charity that supports the homeless. Shelters usually have rules (no drinking, no drugs, no harrasing) and if someone cannot follow those rules I don’t want to help them. (Yes, that means I’m judgmental.) In Canada, seniors get a decent amount of money even if they never worked (eg were homeless their entire life), enough to get a room with a roommate.

Most “rough sleepers” are single males with no children, because shelters prioritize single women with children. As a result, I’m not helping single childless males who need help (at least as much), though I’m more inclined to donate to homeless families anyway. Even if their parents are undisciplined drug addicts, I don’t think the children should suffer for that.

(A rough sleeper is someone who literally sleeps on the streets. Not a shelter, not temporarily housed with no rights, not temporarily in a motel. They’re the ones who have it the worst. I don’t know if tent dwellers or car/van dwellers count in this category.)

You can also have them call 2-1-1 to connect to organizations who can help. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/dial-211-essential-community-services

I would add that we pay taxes to help out with these folks and I don’t begrudge them that. But I’m supposed to pay again, help them twice? Where’s the breakdown in the system? Are they avoiding authorities for a reason, staying off the radar? :thinking:

There’s one I see around here whose sign reads, “Hungry Hungry Hippie”. He doesn’t look like he’s missed many meals but I’m tempted to give him something because I like his sign.

Maimonides said, “If you gave money to ten beggars, and nine were lying to you, you have done a good thing.” I usually don’t, all though I carry dollar bills in case I feel guilty.

I rarely, if ever, have cash on me, but even if I do, I don’t give to beggars. Some years back, my husband and I watched a couple of men park a fairly decent car near an off-ramp, remove a couple of bedrolls from the trunk, and trot down to the highway. I suppose there are some folks truly in need who are asking for spare change, but overall, I doubt it. I especially resent those who use their kids as props.

I draw the opposite conclusion. I assume the vast majority of people asking for money are doing so because they feel they need it. Some may be well-off scam artists, but I don’t assume that’s common.

As I said earlier, I don’t usually give them money for a variety of reasons. Fear of being scammed just isn’t one of them (with the exception of the guys who come up to me at the gas station with a sad story about just needed a little gas money to get home).

If someone wants to go through the effort to wear dirty clothes, look destitute, and refrain from bathing just to ask me for some money, I guess they’ve earned it.

Normally I don’t but if they’re playing a musical instrument, then I’ll give money. A few years back, some guy had an electric piano somehow powered up to his older VW beetle and doing a helluva job on Billy Joel’s piano man. He got $5.

I had a similar experience about twenty years ago. I was coming out of a restaurant with a friend, and we were approached by a scruffy guy who asked for bus fare to get home. My friend immediately produced a bus token and offered it to him. He refused it, stammering out a nonsensical explanation of why the token wouldn’t work for him.

I’ve occasionally given money to panhandlers, but usually I don’t—particularly when they’ve strategically positioned themselves with a sign describing a tale of woe. I don’t like feeling manipulated.

A former co-worker who had done a lot of volunteer work with the homeless told me that many chronically homeless people have undiagnosed/untreated psychological ailments that make it impossible for them to function in society, and if you set them up with a job and an apartment they’d blow it in a week. Those folks still need food and shelter, of course, but I don’t believe for a moment that giving a few bucks to a panhandler is going to help them “get back on their feet.”

We always contribute to buskers and if time allows we get our money’s worth. If we stay for a few tunes, another donation is given. I’ve gotten more enjoyment listening to some street musicians than I’ve gotten from expensive concerts.

As far as money going towards drugs, I figure some people need insulin to survive and some people require some opioids to get by. Who am I to judge?

There used to be an intersection-based panhandler in my area who literally had no hands, just stumps of arms. He was energetic and surprisingly dexterous. I knew nothing about his personal situation or the care he may have been receiving, but I always donated when I saw him.

I’ll buy food or other products if they’re asking for them. Otherwise, I won’t do that, because at least around here, the people who do that are frequently the type who have been banned from every shelter in the region for refusing to follow rules.

Sometimes I do. When I am handing them the money I always feel like a sucker, sure that I’m being scammed, imagining other people in nearby cars laughing at me for being such a rube but after I’ve given them the money and am driving away I always feel good about it. They may have scammed me but I still get the good karma points. That’s what I like to think anyway.
One time a guy walked up to me in a parking lot and said “Sir, I’m a really bad alcoholic and I haven’t had a drink yet today and I’m in bad shape.” He looked it. I gave him 5 bucks for his honesty.

A lot of homeless people would far rather live on the streets than a shelter or rescue mission, and possibly for good reason. The “rules” for shelters (especially “rescue missions” run by religious or quasi-religious organizations) can be abusive, odious, and onerous. Nitpicky rules made by a bunch of power-crazy micromanagers.

There was a site I read some years ago (it may still be around for all I know) by a guy who lived homeless for a few weeks just to see what it was like, and the blogged the whole experience. His blog included a page about the efforts he did ahead of time to make himself scruffy and ragged. He had two pages about his brief stints in rescue missions, which he described as the worst part of his experiences. He concluded by recommending that any homeless person STAY THE HELL AWAY from those hell-holes!

Maybe that page is still around. I’ll take a quick look and see if I can find it.

All the social workers I’ve asked (a bunch of bleeding heart liberals like myself) have said never to give money to beggars. They recommend instead donations to various charities and carrying packs of packaged food, toiletries, and socks.

For a while, I rode the elevated train twice a week. There were several pan handlers who did regular rounds on the train. I remember one man with a missing hand. I’d seen him ask for money for food many times before. One night, he changed his plea to “Why lie? I want money for a drink.”.

I put buskers in a different category. I’ve seen some amazing talent on display in Philly.