Unfortunately for me, I get this all too often. I have given food to people who seem genuinely in need. However this sometimes doesn’t do any good, due to the nature of the homeless population.
There are two types of people who beg for money. The homeless… people down on their luck, who just need some time to recover. Then you have the street people…the kind who drink their meals, or spend their check on drugs. Even Laser or Cobra, get expensive when you have it three times a day, ( These are two of the cheapest malt liquors around. They sell for approximately $1.00 for a fourty.), and most need more than one to keep the buzz going.
Often these people are outdoors because the shelters won’t take someone who is obviously intoxicated. They cannot afford food, shelter, and their drug of choice, so one or more has to go.
Yes I have become an expert at seperating the two. No, I’m not always right.
I will not give money, or Anything else, ( Not even while wearing vinyl gloves.),to street people. I refuse to be brow beaten into feeling bad about having a job by some Crazy Horse swilling lush.
Not too long ago, I was walking out of Grand Central and an apparently homeless man asked if he could have 1.25 for coffee. I was absolute dirt broke myself, I mean, the only thing I had to my name was a dime in my coat pocket. That’s not an exaggeration, I was literally down to my last dime. But he had asked so sincerely, and it really was very, very cold that day so I gave him the dime, somewhat apologetically, thinking, well at least it’s a start? He gave me this look of disgust and tossed the dime over his shoulder.
I could have cried.
No, it won’t stop me from giving someone the dime next time, silly me.
Last night my girlfriend and I were walking back to the car after the Rembrandt exhibit at the Art Institute (see it if you can. It’s really great) and dinner. A guy approached us and asked if we were from Chicago. I said yes and he showed me a piece of paper with an address on it. I assumed he wanted directions so I started to give them. Then he explained that he’d “been mugged and woke up and was the only white guy in the neighborhood and everybody was ignoring him and he went to the police station and filled out a report (which he showed me, although it didn’t look like a police report, particularly the part that said “CTA” on it) and his ID had been taken and he’d called his father in Indiana who had told him to scrape together money to get the train home and his father would be sure to send the money as soon as he got there and he didn’t want to spend another night at the police station and he needed cash because he didn’t have an ID and the people at the train station wouldn’t help him without an ID and …”
I finally just told him I was sorry but I didn’t have any cash left (even though I did) and we couldn’t help. We walked on and heard him mutter “my god” behind us.
I might have actually helped him if I hadn’t heard the same basic story at least FIVE TIMES in the last few years. I mean, really. These guys need to get together and come up with a new scam.
You’re wrong. NGOs are a scam. Your donated money mostly ends up lining the pockets of NGO employees, financing their next Benz purchase, etc. What stuff (bags of rice, etc) your money actually gets to buy just purchases inventory for the small businessmen who are at the “relief” drop off points every day to get a handout. They then sell your “donation” to the starving poor you were hoping to help. And your donated clothes? All sent to clearinghouses in NY where they are bundled up and SOLD overseas to merchants who then SELL them to the citizens you thought you were donating to.
I suggest reading Investment Biker and Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers. Along with being one hell of a good read, he has a lot to say about the nature and behavior of NGOs and their employees. Your money is better spent on the homeless dude in your face: at least you know he’s getting every penny you spent on him, even if he’s using it to buy hooch.
Something similar happened to me when I was going to Rutgers. I gave a beggar at the train station my change, and he threw away the pennies and cursed me out! The stupid fuck. I would have kicked his ass if it wasn’t in public with other people around. ( I was 18 , so I had a bit of a temper, plus it’s not like I only gave him pennies, I also gave him a quarter and 2 dimes. I was being pretty generous, and I was pretty broke.) I’ve never given to a beggar since.
About 15 years ago life was tough. I was working 3 jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. One Day my wife and I stopped at a 7-11 for a soda (we had just got off working together on a 6 hour shift). At the time I had gone about 26 days without a day off.
Anyway in front of the 7-11 is a 20ish guy and girl sitting on the sidewalk. As we go to pass by he ask for change. I tell him I didn’t have any. His reply is “Come on man share.”
At this point I realize that both he and the girl are smoking. I proceed to lose it.
"Look asshole, I have worked 26 days without a day off, at 3 different jobs, just to keep a roof over my family’s head. Why in the fuck would I want to give some of what very little hard earned money I have to you? Furthermore, I see that both of you are smoking. If you got money for smokes, you sure as hell don’t need any of mine. Why don’t you get off your lazy ass and get a fucking job? "
The look on their face was priceless as they realized just how pissed I was.
I almost always give. Sometimes I give the loose change jingling in my pocket. Other times I may give as much as ten dollars (like when I’m in a good mood and I don’t have anything smaller).
There’s a girl where I work who always manages to tug at my heart strings. She always opens up by giving her name and explaining that she’s HIV + and not on drugs. She just needs money for food and tampons. She looks like she’s in her early 20s and I can tell by looking in her eyes that she’s had a rough life.
So I give. She always says thank you and God bless you and all that. But weirdly, even though I’ve given her as much as ten dollars at one time, everytime she seems me she automatically launches into her spiel. My name is Temika and I’m HIV +. I don’t do drugs…I’m just trying to get enough to eat and buy some tampons…can you help me out… It makes me wonder if she recognizes faces. Maybe she’s so bent on surviving that she’s become numb to things like that.
I don’t have a lot of money. If I don’t find a job soon, I may have to endure a truly poor existence. I live in a claptrap apartment and wear threadbare, second-hand clothing. But I don’t have to beg for tampons. My blues have never been that bad. So…I always try to give something to someone who really seems desperate, even if it’s a penny. Maybe it’s to assuage guilt, but it also makes me feel like I’m grateful for what I have.
Not saying that anyone else has to feel that way, though.
I should follow up my “bad experience” with one nicer one (although, this is the pit, hey). A couple of years ago there was the proverbial homeless man standing in front of the grocery store with his “Will Work for Food” sign. I, as usual, was broke but when I got into the store they had both bread and cheese on “Buy one get one free” special. Since I needed those things anyway (and certainly didn’t need 2 of them) I bought them and a quart of milk. I drove up to where he was standing and handed him the bag, and said “Well, it’s not work, but it is food.” The gratitude in HIS eyes, and the sincere thanks that he gave me are the reasons I’ll keep giving the dime, even if it might get tossed over someone’s shoulder.
There’s a man in my neighbourhood who always asks for change. Sometimes, when someone calls 911 on him, the cops come along and ask him to move on. He doesn’t have anyplace to live.
He grew up in a mental institution because, when he was a kid, schools had never heard of things like ADHD and epilepsy and learning disorders; all they knew was that this kid wasn’t worth teaching. So of the first fifty years of his life he spent forty-five in the loony bin. He’s much better now, his illness is under control and he’s reasonably happy. But he never learned to read.
Sometimes he looks a bit scary because he’s been taking pharmaceuticals all his life, to control his epilepsy and to keep him nice and docile so he wouldn’t trouble the staff at the hospital. His eyes have that funny look and he kind of shuffles when he walks.
So when you see him he may look a bit weird. And he probably won’t tell you his story, because nobody has ever really cared to hear it. So you may think he’s nothing but a creepy ingrate who’s likely to steal your purse if you turn your back.
Sometimes when people give him money he thinks about saving it up to invest in his future. But he can’t put it in the bank, because he doesn’t have a bank account, because he doesn’t have an address. For the same reason he can’t put it in his RRSP. And he can’t keep it on his person, because when you sleep on the street you get robbed a lot. So he takes that two bucks and buys something that pleases him for the moment, and will be forgotten tomorrow.
I always give him change, when he asks.
And I give change to the guy who sometimes goes into the grocery store once he has enough change, and buys all the oranges he can.
And I give change to the guy who reeks of pee, who manages to live independently with the help of social workers. He talks to himself a lot and he’s not allowed in any of the donut shops because his smell is overpowering. But he’s certainly never brought me any harm, and he only wants a coffee.