Social Question

smilingheart1's avatar

How do you handle panhandlers?

Asked by smilingheart1 (6431points) August 9th, 2011

When you for a fact a panhandler is “working it,” would you (a) walk on by, (b) blow their cover, (c) give McDonald coupons or cash.

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50 Answers

Seelix's avatar

What do you mean by “working it”?

smilingheart1's avatar

collecting instead of working!

YARNLADY's avatar

I pass out the help cards that are provided by our public agencies.

Blackberry's avatar

I usually walk by.

JLeslie's avatar

It varies. I sometimes walk by, sometimes give money, sometimes give my leftovers.

Seelix's avatar

I’ll give them some change if I can spare it and if I think they need it. If I suspected someone of “working it”, I’d just keep walking.

FutureMemory's avatar

I usually walk by. I’m too poor to give money to strangers, especially ones that will most likely turn around and buy booze with it.

When I lived in NYC, it was different. I had a lot more money, and the homeless people there are more often…real homeless, as opposed to the ones here in my ritzy California town.

TexasDude's avatar

I’ve had some seriously bad experiences with panhandlers, so I almost invariably ignore them completely now.

lillycoyote's avatar

If I think someone is “working it” no, I don’t give them money. I walk on by. I don’t stop or even slow down but I do always say something, I acknowledge their existence, usually saying “Sorry, I can’t help you” as I walk by for a couple of reasons 1. out of basic decency, because they are human beings, not objects and they have spoken to me 2. because it keeps them from following you or yelling at you because they think you didn’t hear them or that you’ve treaded them rudely.

But I’m willing to give most panhandlers the change in my pocket or maybe a dollar if I think they really need it. I also do these things because my brother is schizophrenic and one of the vast legions of the homeless mentally ill and wherever he is, I hope that other people show him a little kindness and treat him with decency too.

woodcutter's avatar

The only one’s I have seen are the people looking for some change to gather up enough to buy a piece of the rock, if you know what I mean. They always come up to me so avoiding them isn’t an option, which bugs me. I can’t afford to be handing out money to anyone especially when I know they are just going to get a fix, Buzz off.

XOIIO's avatar

I take their spot.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I didn’t know they were something to be ‘handled’. I don’t hold reactionary views about panhandlers and I know more than to think that they can be ‘working instead’, like you and me.

Donald_Trump's avatar

I give them a few bucks and think that could just as easily be me.

josie's avatar

I always say “Thanks for the opportunity, but I have to say no today”

woodcutter's avatar

@Donald_Trump It shouldn’t be “easy” to end up like them. I mean if you are trying at all to take care of yourself you shouldn’t end up on the street. It took them a lot of time and effort to get where they are.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter You seem to be misinformed – there is no single ‘them’ or a single way to get to be ‘them’.

Donald_Trump's avatar

@woodcutter As @Simone_De_Beauvoir says, and…apparently you have failed to observe what is happening in the world. Global Financial meltdowns, hundreds of thousand becoming unemployed overnight, losing their homes, losing their pensions…are you kidding? It is so easy today to become homeless, penniless and jobless.

woodcutter's avatar

@Donald_Trump Has that really happened?

woodcutter's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir oh you clever one, you’re trying to make me PC, and I almost bit

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter If by PC you mean knowledgeable of factors leading to homelessness, sorry I wasn’t persuasive enough. I do enjoy people making their carelessness and inability to understand social patterns seem to be about political correctness. I find the term to be used most often by those espousing racism, sexism, homophobia and classism as a knee-jerk reaction to say “I don’t have to listen to this, you only say this to sound PC” when, indeed, there are people in this world who do work around issues for reasons other than appearance and who care about others for reasons other than how they come off to others, PC or not.

Kardamom's avatar

If they were being agressive, or appeared to be simply a swindler, rather than a real person who’s down on their luck (most of the folks I see seem to be down on their luck and very polite and gracious) or if it was a potentially violent mentally ill person, than I would try to steer clear of them.

Everybody else, that looks like they are simply down on their luck, I’ll usually do what I can when I see them. If I have any money, I’ll give some (I often don’t) and I almost always carry packaged snacks in my car, for just this reason, so I’ll hand out energy bars and bags of nuts and bottles of water. If I see someone on a street corner near the grocery store, I might go in the store and buy some easy to open cans (with pop tops) of beans or tuna and some canned veggies (and a plastic spoon and some napkins), a bag of apples, some bananas, a can of nuts, a jar of peanut butter (with a plastic knife) and a loaf of bread and a big bottle of water and a big chocolate bar (that may be the only nice tasting thing they get for a long time) and maybe even a bottle of hand sanitizer, because they’re not likely to be able to wash. If it looks like rain, I might get them an umbrella and a folded, bagged tarp (that they can sit on later or use to cover themselves with) and a hat. If they have a dog with them, I’ll get some canned dog food with pop tops and a bag full of disposable bowls.

If I have leftovers from a restaurant, I will try to find someone who looks like they could use a bite to eat. If I’m near a takeout place and I see someone who looks hungry, I might buy an extra sandwich and a cup of coffee and take it out to them.

So far everyone I’ve encountered in this manner has been super-nice.

chyna's avatar

I don’t know how I would recognize someone “working it” from a truly needy person. If I have change with me, I give it to them. I know that any given moment, that it could be me. After 30 years at the same job, I was laid off and it took me an entire year to find temporary employment. Luckily, I never lived beyond my means, or even at my means as so many people have to, so I had a savings account to help me get by, but it was quickly dwindling.

woodcutter's avatar

It’s looking like we have a moving target here. So who are we discussing, drug addicts by self infliction, homeless with mental disorders, or a family of six who happened to be victims of a crashing economy? Panhandlers in my definition are the first two examples.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter We don’t know. But you seem to think they’re all equally at fault.

Kardamom's avatar

@woodcutter Not sure where you live or how you define panhandlers. I define panhandlers as anyone asking for money (agressive or not agressive). In my town, there are panhandlers (or homeless people) on just about every street corner. That used to be pretty rare until 2008, at least in my part of town.

Any one of us could lose our job at a moment’s notice. That is exactly what happened at my company. 25 people out of a staff of 80 were laid off with no notice. In the industry in which I worked, other similar companies also laid off a big percentage of their staffs. So it’s not like we could go to the other company to get a job, because the jobs are gone. Most of those people, if they’ve been lucky, have been able to find some sporadic temporary work, but no one in that group, that I’m aware of has been able to find any type of full time work, and no one has found a job that pays the same amount of money. Some of my friends have lost their homes, and most people that have lost their jobs, also had to give up their health insurance and many of those people, because they are in their 40’s or over, cannot get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A number of people that I know, either as friends, or relatives of my neighbors have had to move in with family and sell most of their possessions. A couple of my friends decided to retire early, which means that they will never receive their full Social Security benefits. It’s bad.

I see people on the street corners at the major intersections every single day. Some of them have signs that say “Will Work for Food” only there’s no one to hire them, because the people that still have a house can’t afford to pay someone to mow their lawn or paint their house or trim their trees like they used to be able to do. Back in the “good old days” you would likely only see a few homeless people in my area, now and then, and some of them were pretty scary looking (most likely because of mental illness) but now I see all sorts of people, all ages, men and women, sometimes with kids, sometimes with pets. But like I said, so far, everyone that I have given food or water or money too has been very gracious. I try to do what I can (which isn’t much), because the alternative is much worse.

lillycoyote's avatar

Removed by self until I catch up on what has actually been said on this thread.

woodcutter's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Ah, that word seem. Never said that they are equally at fault. Let’s look at the 1st guy, who has ruined his life…and by extension, others as well possibly. He blew himself up and in doing so has made himself incredibly unmarketable. Throwing him a buck will do what? Does he collect them and roll them up in a sock to save up for a security deposit for a flat? Noop. As soon as he gets the total he’s waiting on he’s going to give it all to some guy behind a dumpster…or in a stairwell. And then he starts that cycle all over again. Giving that guy any cash is like throwing it into the fire.
Person #2 This guy has been in and out of institutions..or not, and probably likes a fix too. But he may not have blown himself up..on purpose anyway. For all we can guess he may have had a condition as a youngster and fell through the cracks or…he may have chemically lobotomized himself doing what guy #1 has done. Giving him cash may get him a hot dog or a fix, no way to tell if you have never seen him before. This guy may be able to get some relief from social services if he’s cooperative with them but he may avoid them altogether because he won’t be admitted in a place where he might get help. You can lead a horse to water…

Next is the 3rd guy, or family. These people are not panhandlers, maybe. If we use the example given, ie; colossal economic meltdown that puts millions out of their homes. That will be a national emergency. Only if it happens again there won’t be anyone on the streets to give anything. Life will be different and it will be the survival of the fittest. I doubt there will be many sheriffs throwing folks out of their homes this time around because the sheriffs will be afraid. If it’s NYC we will finally see all those guns come out of the closets that Bloomberg thought were eradicated.

I can see helping out a family, as they are savable, they still have what it takes to take advantage of assistance. I think they would do it for others but a druggie only cares about himself. We can’t save them all.

woodcutter's avatar

@lillycoyote Yes I’m aware of that but the q was about panhandlers, they who are professional people? who “work it.” There’s no helping them really in the long term. This is apples and oranges. There are places where some relief can be found for the unemployed but the street bums won’t take advantage of them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter I don’t think any of us spend hours trying to get to the bottom of each panhandler’s situation unless we work with them (as we’ve done) so I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and whatever food I have. There are bigger fish to fry and they pretend to be on a moral ground – they call themselves the government and corporations.

woodcutter's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well good, then. The govt. is always going to be in a better position to help those who want help and even for those who don’t want to help themselves.

Me, I’m still a working man and I don’t make enough money to give to street walkers. I don’t have a trust fund to dip out of when I feel like it. Maybe you do, if so ,then give a guy a dollar for me next time will ya… please.

Berserker's avatar

Give em spare change or smokes, apologize if I can’t, and walk off.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter If that’s how you feel, you don’t have to give them anything but they don’t benefit from your judgment either. I don’t have a trust fund, I’m middle class working full time and supporting my family as well as a house full of relatives. I sometimes give the homeless all the food and money I have for the day. There are many here in NYC.

jca's avatar

I don’t have enough spare money to give to each homeless person or panhandler or whatever you call them. When someone approaches me, or is on the highway exit with a sign “Will work for food” I don’t give them anything. I may look them in the eye and politely say “No, thank you” but I feel no other explanation or apology is necessary.

I work for the local social services agency, and I know that some became homeless or jobless due to drug addiction. Also, in the County I work for, “going homeless” is a quick way to get a Section 8 voucher, because the Section 8 vouchers go first to the residents of homeless shelters. It’s for that reason that everyone else on the list for S8 is on the list for 8 or 10 years (yes, seriously). Due to my job, I see the homeless in a slightly different light than others may. Having seen people first hand with stories and “rackets” I may be more cynical than the average person.

So, yes, I lump them together and give them nothing. Do I feel bad for giving them nothing? No. There are many avenues available to those who want to enter the shelter system and comply with the rules of the system. Is it an easy way to go? No. However, if it’s what you need to do to put a roof over your head and your family’s head, then you have to do it.

smilingheart1's avatar

Hi folks, I live in Alberta, Canada in one of the two larger cities we have in this province. We have had the good fortune until this time to be one of the “have” spots in the nation and we do have some who literally “work it” instead of a job. I myself have been approached outside banks as well as on street corners and by one very recognizable panhandler in more than one location across the city. Each time his approach has been slightly different. So what I am referring to is literally scam artists. How to handle known scammers. I am sensitive to and supportive of situations of genuine need and that is totally a compassion that needs to flow from each of us as they come before us. I in no way wanted to produce any offence with regard to those individuals who are simply trying to get their needs met while they are in a time of emergency as could so suddenly come upon any one of us or our “kinfolk” – Let the genuine be helped, let not the others inflict cynicism so that society grows cold to genuine need.

woodcutter's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir No judging just observant. I’m pretty good at getting to the real story of an individual by looking at them at first when they open their mouth its over, I know. I have heard every story and variant of them. There are only a few to know. Do I get one wrong sometimes? Noop.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@woodcutter Funny, I pride myself on having the same observant nature. Yet, I give so much more often.

woodcutter's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Maybe where you are there is a person at every other corner that you pass by. Where I am they are actually rare and it’s blatantly obvious what their deal is. At times they are fairly aggressive.

chyna's avatar

@woodcutter What really annoys me is the fairly aggressive teens that run up to my car demanding money for their band or cheerleading squad or whatever. This happened to me Saturday and I shook my head no, I wasn’t donating to these little girls in short shorts and a bathing suit top on a busy highway acosting my car. The sweet little thing yelled at me and called me a name. I rolled down my window and said “excuse me, what did you just call me” and she gave me the finger and walked off.

linguaphile's avatar

I used to stuff my backpack with apples, oranges and bananas from my college buffet-style cafeteria and handed those out whenever I went around DC.

However, if they claim to be deaf, I sign to them and they usually run away. FYI….most of the “deaf” panhandlers selling trinkets are not deaf, but people pretending to be deaf to play off the pity factor. If they respond in sign, I just have a conversation with them. No use telling them to get a job (they won’t), and no use telling them about gov’t agencies (they already know about them).

I’ve bought jugs of water for panhandlers in Florida and Texas. Sometimes that’s all they want… free water in communities that charge for water. :(

woodcutter's avatar

@chyna Yeah that’s the snotty kids for ya. It’s one reason I keep my car doors locked. If someone suddenly piles inside your car you can’t do much.

linguaphile's avatar

@chyna And they think you really will give them money???? groan

chyna's avatar

@woodcutter I know I sounded snotty about that, but I had just made a bill out for my taxes and included in those taxes was 68.00 for my county schools. I don’t have kids and I don’t mind paying taxes for the schools, but if everyone in my county is paying that amount of money for schools, why do these kids have to beg for money. I was not in a good mood when that happened.

woodcutter's avatar

@chyna Hey, no I understand completely. One of the rules of panhandlers is you don’t be pushy there’s a fine line between asking and mugging someone.

linguaphile's avatar

If the person is panhandling to survive, that’s one thing because I know from experience that our society has almost no way for someone who hits that level of poverty to climb out easily. Job applications require addresses, addresses require money. But, there is another side to panhandling…

It’s not one of my proudest moments, but when I was 18 I became party friends with a kingpin of a panhandling ring. After he started trusting me, he started talking and that’s when I learned about his ‘system.’ What scared the beejeebies out of me is that it’s run exactly like a gang or a drug dealing ring. They hosted the best dang parties in my county, but the things I saw while hanging out with them are not things you would want your kids to see. They can be as dangerous as drug dealers and I’m fortunate I got away from them when I did.

Sunny2's avatar

I say, with a smile, “I’m sorry. I wish I could, but God bless you.” They usually say “God bless you” back. If they are working it, they just go on to the next person.
What I resent is people who beg with a burning cigarette in their mouth. With the price of cigarettes you could use the money for something to eat. But that’s forgetting that begging is a business for them.

linguaphile's avatar

@Sunny2 I don’t disagree, I don’t like seeing them with cigs. What I did learn from an interview with a homeless person is that they made her less hungry, she ate less, so needed less money. I’m not a smoker, so I couldn’t justify the veracity of that, really. I’d have to ask a smoker if that could be true.

ucme's avatar

If it’s the wife cooking, I run a bloody mile…..fast!

Donald_Trump's avatar

@Sunny2 @linguaphile Sometimes those cigarettes were also bummed off somebody else. and quite often those poor desperate people are actually smoking cigarettes they found on the ground.
And there are very cheap kinds of cigarettes, I believe they call them generic brands and roll-your-own.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Sunny2 : A generic cigarette costs about 30 cents. Can’t get much to eat with that. What @linguaphile says is true, about quelling some of the hunger pangs ( I smoked for over 40 years, recently quit, I speak from experience) Here’s an article that supports the appetite suppression theory. @Donald_Trump also has a point that most cigs that panhandlers and homeless people smoke are bummed, shared or gotten off the ground.

To answer the question: Considering the economy I’m happy to give some cash. I’m extremely fortunate in these hard times, I can share.

Sunny2's avatar

Actually, I think the truth is that they have very little to feel pleased about. A cigarette gives them pleasure. I’m pretty hard nosed about smoking. It’s probably the habit I find hardest to forgive. I’ll try harder not to be judgmental.

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