General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Should I offer a healthy homeless person a temporary off-the-books job rather than a quick handout?

Asked by LuckyGuy (38463points) March 27th, 2017

The snow is melting here and trash that had been covered in ice and snow for months is now appearing all around city streets. Many of the residents are renters and do not clean up the mess even if it is front of their home. It looks terrible.
A relative of mine lives in the city not too far from a subsidized housing facility near a Dollar store and 7-Eleven. There are always a few beggars (they are not homeless so I will stick with the term “beggar”) hanging out in front of those stores asking customers for money, intimidating some. The store managers chase them away but they soon return.
Seeing all the trash on the ground and the beggars standing around I got to thinking. Why not hire them to pick it up?
I would be willing to pay minimum wage, cash from my pocket, off the books, for one or two of them to collect trash and put it in clear trash bags that I would supply along with gloves.
I would ask them to go up one side of the street and down the other and when they returned with the bags l would give them money. (I might give 20% up front and 80% upon completion.)
I’d start with one hour and see if the idea worked. If that person did a good job I’d pay for them to do it on a couple of more streets on another day. If that worked well I might hire them to plant grass seed that I’d supply or do other projects that would benefit the neighborhood.

Do you see problems with this? How can/will this backfire on me?

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35 Answers

LornaLove's avatar

I think it is a great idea. Many homeless people need a job in order to secure a better job further down the line. However, some homeless people, not all, of course, suffer from issues. So you’d have to put security and certain checklists in place as well as decide when and how to discharge a person if necessary.
My son is homeless, unfortunately, because he has in the past stolen from employees, he has a drug issue and is violent. Many homeless people are just homeless for sad reasons. I really think it is a great idea and a great opportunity, but not an easy one!

Judi's avatar

The only problem I see is if the fall and hurt themselves they can rightly say that you employed them and if you don’t have workers comp they could sue you for everything you’ve got.
No good deed goes unpunished.

CWOTUS's avatar

To expand a bit on @Judi‘s good response: There is no end to “potential risk” in this situation. Aside from falling and hurting themselves, there is the risk of small animals that may be disturbed in the cleanup effort (rats, perhaps) and what they could do to even a gloved hand; there are undreamed-of potentials for someone to be driving down the road and hit one of your “employees” who is “on the clock”, etc.

There is another way that you might finesse the same result – a cleaner street, and cash in the hands of former panhandlers with minimum risk to you – by handing them the gloves and the trash bags, a few dollars to show that you mean business (and let’s say that’s the 20% figure that you had in mind), maybe some sandwiches and cold drinks to show them that this is a real thing.

Tell them that you’ll be back the next day to pick up the filled trash bags – if they will fill them – and you’ll have a “balance of cash” to exchange for that. (This might also encourage them to do the work as expeditiously as possible instead of doing it “on the clock”, which will make them more valuable employees to whoever finally does hire them someday.)

Coloma's avatar

I think it’s a great idea and wouldn’t overthink it too much. Ask around and see who wants to help, some will, some probably won’t. I’d also say to be casual in your interactions, don’t impose too many rules to make them feel like they are being treated like lazy children and express your appreciation for a job well done, tell them things look great, etc. but not in a condescending way. Maybe bring a cooler with sandwiches and drinks. A lot of homeless probably have confidence issues and I think it is important to not treat them like you are doing them some huge favor and over glorify the offer.

Pride and dignity should be respected including the ones that choose to not take you up on the offer. You don’t want to come across as arrogant and judgmental.
You might also want to toss in a little extra as a future incentive. A job well done should be handsomely rewarded and that will help build confidence in those that choose to accept your proposition.

flutherother's avatar

As someone who dislikes begging and hates litter I think it’s a great idea.

LostInParadise's avatar

Some things I am not clear on: Is this a once a year cleanup or more frequent? Are you the one who would be paying?

LuckyGuy's avatar

You all bring up good points about injuries and workers comp etc. I figure if they manage to walk around all day in the ice and snow without falling they are probably good for walking for an hour picking up trash.
I’d be doing this cash out my pocket without my name being used. Drug dealers use that model
I guess I need to worry about some slime lawywer with a “Call 222 to Sue.”

I can secretly and securely set up a camera and photograph every one of them that walks by for a week or so. If I’m asked and I recognize a regular, rather than just refusing like I always do, I can mention the offer.
Do you think someone would accept? What I’d really like to see is more of the “Will work for food” signs. I have not seen that in decades.

@Coloma My thinking is when they ask for money rather than just refusing I offer this option. “Hey would you be willing to spend an hour cleaning up XYZ street? I’ll pay you $10.”
If it works out I offer to do it again.

@LostInParadise I would be paying. Who knows. Maybe some of the good neighbors in the neighborhood might chip in. But for now. I’m willing to throw a couple of hundred bucks at it.
This is the best time of year to do it. The trash has been collecting and had been buried under snow for months. much of it is frozen so there are no bugs yet. It is also before grass starts to grow and the mowing season begins.
It you walk on the street you can tell who the “good” people by their clean yards. The road and front of some houses are spotless while next door there are wet newspapers, trash that birds pulled out of garbage cans, crushed hub caps, etc.
If this worked well it could expand to quietly repairing lawn damage from the snow plows. Anything that improves the neighborhood while putting “beggars” to work.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In addition to all of the good points that others have raised above, there’s another to be aware of.

There may well be some already existing ‘do gooder’ organizations in your area that purport to be helping the beggars/homeless/needy. Mostly ineffectuality. If your idea works, then you can bet that the ‘official do-gooders’ will come down on you as not following accepted rules and practices. The ‘do-gooder establishment’ will be pissed off that you are being effective while all they do is bureaucracy.

So be prepared for pushback….

jca's avatar

I am all for it and I’m also for people who are on public assistance and are able to work, working 21 hours per week for their benefits.

kritiper's avatar

It might be best to go with a hand-out. He could report you to the authorities with the job offer.
There was a guy on my block who I call “Crash.” EVERY single job he got, he got hurt on and then lived off Workmen’s Comp. You don’t want a guy like that working for you “under the table,” since employers are required to have workmen’s comp insurance for all of their employees.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@kritiper The handout isn’t going to happen. It is a shame people like that ruin it for others. I will not be an employer. I’m just offering $10 for an hour’s worth of clean up. That would be as far as it goes. I’m not getting anything out of it. The neighborhood is benefiting.

I’ve seen stories about people down south who hire Mexicans or Guatemalans standing in front of Home Depots to help with home projects. That is probably illegal.

LuckyGuy's avatar

This is interesting input. i like that you’re opinions are so different.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The local mission here does way more than I could for the homeless on my own. I give to them and it’s no risk to me. This seems like you open yourself up to some liability.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Go for it! But I suggest you take the time to size up the potential applicants and begin with only one. You can soak up a lot by simply standing around with your eyes open. But you don’t want to appear very much out of place. My avatar for instance is not up to the task.

Coloma's avatar

I am one that doesn’t have a problem with “hand outs” In the true spirit of altruistic “giving” who the fuck cares if you choose to give someone a few bucks and what they do with it. I prefer to call it “giving” not a “handout.”
When I give I give because I want to, to brighten someones day, to acknowledge that I could be that person myself. If the recipient wants to buy a sandwich or a couple beers, I don’t care. Whatever it takes to get them through their day is my mantra.

People that have reached such a rock bottom state of being, regardless of the hows, deserve compassion. Not everyone has what it takes to survive in this dog eat dog world.

LostInParadise's avatar

A number of people have said that there might be liability problems if someone gets hurt during the cleanup. Doesn’t that only apply to people hired as employees? In this case the person would be hired as an independent contractor, the same as if you hired a plumber or electrician to do work in your home.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

I would suggest to the worriers to buy a small amount of insurance and then hire the person.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I can see that conversation with my insurance agent going well

CWOTUS's avatar

Considering your concern for illegals who are often hired in front of home improvement stores, as you noted, you may very well “reward” some illegal aliens as well, since you won’t be doing any kind of pre-employment check. You may also be hiring drunks and drug abusers, so it’s very likely that if they do work in this way they may be impaired while they’re doing it.

Coloma's avatar

^ Gosh you guys are really working hard to borrow trouble here. lol
Seriously…how hard can it be to pick up trash even if someone is slightly high or drunk? Jeez…just give it a go and see how it goes. The odds of some cataclysmic problem arising is pretty damn slim if you ask me.

Give someone a trash bag, a pair of gloves and flip them a ten spot and if you don’t like the results then don’t do it again. Really…your borrowing all kinds of trouble that most likely doesn’t exist. Since when has picking up some litter become a job of such magnitude?
It’s not like you’re hiring some random homeless person to babysit your child that might drop a freaking hypodermic needle in the kids Spaghetti-Os. Sheesh!

janbb's avatar

@Coloma I’m with you especially on your first post. As Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” I sometimes give and sometimes turn away but I usually feel better about myself when I give.

Coloma's avatar

@janbb Yes, because it is about shared HUMANITY not a holier than thou, let me foist my value system on you and don’t forget to grovel with gratitude. Gah!

Patty_Melt's avatar

Do it. Some will be happy for the opportunity to be useful, some will be offended. Those who take offense, well, they suffer with their own spirits.
The worst I see happening is nobody takes you up on it. I have tried to hire kids to do some minor chores around the yard for me. They are too greedy, wanting minimum wage.
If you find someone who is eager, does well, you could perhaps be a reference for them when they seek regular jobs.

chyna's avatar

I’m in the “do it” camp. If it works out, then fantastic. If not, you tried to help a homeless person feel useful to society again.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

If you know me at all, you already know that I am all about helping the homeless or doing something for people who have fallen on hard times, but I have to warn you that the majority of the people in my area who do this type of regular panhandling are not homeless and not necessarily needy. Many, or most, are known drug addicts or simply scam artists. They will park their cars and walk down to their regular spot where they will hold up signs or beg for money/food/help. I still help people when I feel comfortable, but I would worry about a plan like this backfiring in many ways because the sort of person who scams people out of change/money all day long would probably see this as an opportunity to scam for more money. I’d be a little wary.

johnpowell's avatar

I just moved into my apartment in September. A few weeks later my mom went around to thrift shops in a U haul and bought some tables and a couch and a very heavy entertainment center.

So I tried to move this stuff into my apartment with my 65 year old diabetic mother. Yeah, that wasn’t happening.

I live a few blocks away from a homeless shelter and there was a lot of people outside so my mother was all “can you help me move this? 10 bucks for 30 minutes”. So many people wanted to do it she had to pick the first two.

The two people she picked were very nice and very eager to work.

People do want to work. The people that helped us were homeless so long they smelled and had bad clothes. How the fuck do these people get a job at Taco Bell? They smell since they live on the sidewalk. Oh, resume, phone number, and address. How the fuck do you get up from that?

kritiper's avatar

@LuckyGuy Best to never assume anything. Helpful advice from one who is trying to be helpful.

Coloma's avatar

@johnpowell Exactly! HOW DO you get up from that? You most likely don’t.
Then, how many people with decent jobs homes turn to drinking and drugs to cope with their stress, but if you’re homeless you get pegged as some shiftless, addicted POS too.

The whole situation is just terribly sad and I can only imagine the discouragement and hopelessness factor as well. I have seen some hard times but I can’t imagine living on the streets, I’d probably turn to drink and drugs too.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think that another common challenge in homeless communities that is often overlooked is mental illness, not just drinking/drugs/addiction. People assume that every homeless person or panhandler that they meet who is incoherent is drunk or fucked up on drugs, but mental illness is one of the leading causes/contributors to homelessness. I, personally, don’t give a shit if I give someone money and they spend it on dope/drugs/booze, which is the most common reason that I hear people say they don’t want to help beggars. I hesitate to give money to panhandlers, just because panhandling scams are so common in my area, but I will get them a sandwich or a bottle of water on a hot day because I hate to think that I am walking past a person who actually needs help. I’d rather give a free sandwich to a scam artist than walk past someone who doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Coloma's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf Yes, agreed, I know that but the focus always sees to be on substance abuse with the notion they are shiftless, lazy, beggars that don’t want to work. So sad really.

Patty_Melt's avatar

True, but also sad the people who want help, and can’t get it because of asshats who use the system with no effort to rehab.
I just lost a neighbor who moved away in the dark of the night with her kids. Her housing was provided by a drug rehab program. During the full two years she lived there, I never saw an attempt to rehab, only to hide her use of various substances.
Her constant emotional extremes would extend into my days and nights. It led to a lot of confusion and heartache for my daughter. The constant changing of boyfriends meant a variety of “step” kids going through. My daughter would get to know them, then screaming out in their front yard would tell us that those kids would be gone, along with whatever pathetic father who’d dragged them there.
I am kind of hoping whoever moves into that house next speaks only in sign.
Of the two years she lived there, the woman worked a total of three months. There were times I let her kids in after school because it was raining, and their mom was at the bar and lost track of time.
Still, she was not the type to hang out looking for odd jobs, or handouts. She was the type to talk a fast streak and get what she could from the people she knew.
I hope those little girls will be ok.
I still think making the work offer is a good thing.

Strauss's avatar

As far as the employer/employee relationship, it could be avoided by saying something like: “here’s some cash, some gloves and some bags. If I come back in an hour or so, and the trash etc is gone, I give you $XX.00 more.”

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Strauss That is a good approach. I will be there on Friday and will scope out the situation.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Another mistake. Sorry

johnpowell's avatar

@LuckyGuy :: You could also dress down a bit and have a friend make the offer and you help clean to judge how helpful people are. Sort of a homeless Undercover Boss.

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