How desperate would you need to be before you'd panhandle?

Something I thought of when I see people holding up signs saying that they’ve been laid off and are about to lose their home, or that they have a disabled wife and three daughters to support. It makes me question whether they, or their stories, are genuine, and what kind of help they’ve looked for already that they’ve been rejected from if they are.

So, how far would you need to be pushed before you wrote up your sign and stood out next to that major suburban intersection?

I guess if I was about to be evicted if I didn’t pay rent very soon and could think of no other halfway reasonable way to get money, I’d do it. Once you lose your house and probably most of your possessions, it makes it so much harder to get your life together.

Basically, I’d consider panhandling only when robbing liquor stores and freezing to death under a bridge are the only alternatives.

That’s not just a judgment against panhandlers. It’s more my own personal hangup. I was once stuck without bus fare to get home and decided it was better to walk five miles home than to ask for $0.75 from strangers.

About 5 years ago, I saw a man, standing the rain, begging donations for his wife’s medications. I think I would panhandle so I could care for someone else, just as this man did. I have a FB friend who seems to like to talk about his financial hardship, and it always spurs everyone to send him money. Is that considered panhandling? Probably not, but people are getting very inventive at begging. I have given money to panhandlers, myself, just a few dollars for a meal. Of course, if they do other things with it, none of my business. It’s a free country.

Hey can you help me out with a little something? Anything will help. Got any change?

I would never do it.

Actually, the story about getting money for his wife’s medications was probably just a story.

There are a lot of people who panhandle as a way of making money, and they try out different stories. A favorite one is “I need <$X> for gas money to get to a job interview”, or “I need money for baby food”, or some other worthy goal. Every now and then, the local newspaper runs a story on the most notorious panhandlers, where they like to do their begging, their descriptions, and what their stories are. The guy who does the stories gets reports from various people, and he checks them out.

As for me…I’d have to be pretty damn desperate. As in, I need the money to save my life, or someone’s life. However, I acknowledge that I have a better support system than many people do. In part, though, I’ve got that support system because I’ve been building it up for decades.

I would have to be very deeply screwed to ask a stranger for money. Crime would probably be a first option.

That said, as a former smoker I remember bumming smokes from people when I was out, and handing them out to people who asked when I had them, and it was all quite friendly and collegial.

I look forward to seeing if panhandling manages to reach the same level of acceptability amongst the afflicted as the economy develops.

While still in high school in 1981 I walked 12 MILES from downtown Cleveland to my home in the suburbs rather than beg someone for $0.50 so I could catch the bus!

I’ve spent 15 months as a homeless addict on the streets of Cleveland. I slept in the shelters, ate at the “soup kitchens”, the whole nine, but I have NEVER panhandled!
My pride wouldn’t let me.

I often give to panhandlers just because I know that if I were driven to do that, the situation would be pretty dire. I mean, even if you’re just too shitty to go and get a job or something, then being that shitty must suck in itself, so I’ll still give you the money. The point where panhandling seems better than any other options must be a terrible point, even if it’s because you’re lazy or a drunk.

So when would I panhandle? I literally cannot imagine it. I would panhandle for money for medical treatment of a loved one, but… the NHS. I will never need to do that. I can’t imagine anything that would make me panhandle.

I don’t think I could. I think I would steal first. Maybe get myself put in jail. As I live in Britain, though, where we have a welfare state, so it pretty difficult to get into a situation that bad.

It seems to me that although panhandling can probably bring in plenty enough to pay for food, it is unlikely to ever bring in enough for regular rent, let alone serious medical expenses (beyond some cheap medical drugs, maybe).

I’ve busked, but I don’t suppose that’s quite the same thing. It still felt rather like begging.

What I’ve seen a lot lately* is whole families on the corners with signs that are way too long for me to read in the .5 seconds of my attention they get. But there’s always a man and woman and a group of kids standing there with a piece of cardboard and waving at passersby. The top line of the one sign I bothered looking at said something about losing their house.

I can’t imagine a situation in which I would panhandle. I would sell personal non-essential possessions first (firearms, jewelry, vehicles… I think that’s about it, really). If that wasn’t enough, I’d sell drugs. I certainly cannot imagine a situation, EVER, where I would bring my kids with me to panhandle. WTF.

  • I’ve seen this twice in the last month or so. It doesn’t sound like a lot but that is 100% of the panhandling I’ve seen at all in this fairly rural, small town area.

I was impressed with a guy the other day that had a sign about no job, sick wife, etc. The cool thing was he had a big ice chest and was selling bottled water at a buck. People would wave a dollar out the car window, and he runs an ice cold water to them. Gimmicky, but the guy was working it hard and it seems people were happy to help.

I’ve got too much pride and independence to ever find myself in that situation. I’ve also always noticed what abled men and women that many appear to be.

And for all of you that give to these panhandlers on the streets on a regular basis, do them and everyone else a favor and let them find some self-worth without encouraging them to be a beggar and sponge off of others just so you can make yourself feel better. You’re not setting a good example for your kids or anybody else.

I don’t remember where I saw a guy whose sign said something like, “need booze and smokes.” I gave him some money.

That would have caught me off guard and probably would have made me laugh. Seems like I have heard others try that approach, and just be honest without insulting our intelligence with another bullshit story.

It would kill me to take my kid panhandling but I think it would be better than selling drugs and risking going to jail, because then what happens to your kid?

There was one guy here who regularly sold this homeless newspaper we have here in a grocery store parking lot at night for, I don’t know, at least a year, with his daughter who was around 10. I sure felt bad for the little girl. And it sucks because the guy obviously really was trying, and still had to resort to that.

I tell myself that I would if the alternative was becoming homeless. Especially since I’ve know more closely people drifting into homelessness, and realizing how difficult it is to get out of such a situation. I obviously knew it was difficult, but didn’t realize how many hurdles there were. For instance, an homeless acquaintance needed surgery (heart and hip). He had found a semi-permanent (he could stay there for several months) shelter for the winter. But if he went to hospital, his room would be immediately reassigned and he would be out of luck once discharged from the hospital. He went without surgery despite serious cardiac issues and difficulties walking.

That’s just an example. It now seems to me that being an unemployed homeless is essentially a full time job in the best case scenario (that is, if one has enough energy to try getting out of this situation) : hunting for free food, waiting at social workers’ offices, wadding through paperwork, fighting to keep any kind of roof over your head daily, etc… Ideally, it would require a good education, an adress, a phone, a computer, a car and a lawyer to be done properly. That in a country with a strong safety net, free healthcare, etc…
So, as I said, I told myself that I should resort to panhandling before I would be caught in the large scale catch 22 of being homeless. Whether I would be able to do it remains to be seen (hopefully, I’ll never need to find out). Whether panhandling could allow me to keep a roof or not, I wouldn’t know, either.

I would busk, and I have asked for change when 20p short on bus fare once (I think I was about 17, on my way home at night, and only realised I was short as I was getting on the bus- asking the lady next to me was way less embarrassing than having to get off again and phone pissed off parents for a lift), but I don’t think I’d ever beg for ‘real’. So long as we have the NHS, at least…