Someone once told me “If you’re going to be serious, you need to give us a little warning. We’re always expecting a punch line or looking for the funny when we read your stuff.”
This is your warning. I do have a serious side. It’s way, way around back and it’s harder to see ‘round my backside but last I checked, it’s still back there. I wanted to have a serious discussion about panhandlers/beggars.
Let me preface this by saving I don’t mind helping out. We’re called to do so, both biblically and morally. If I know someone is in need and I can ease their burden just a wee bit, I’m happy to do so. If I’m blessed to be in a position to share, I’m not about to start hoarding my resources that I was blessed with.
Now, that said, I know in some larger metropolitan areas street beggars are common place. I live in a small suburban community, which is very close to a small metro area. It used to be that when we went downtown listen to and watch “Blues on the Mall” (weekly free summer blues concerts) that it wasn’t uncommon to see homeless people digging through the trash looking for bottles and cans.
In Michigan we have a $.10 bottle deposit, which does help the streets from becoming littered with empties and helps with our recycling efforts. Equally if you put a little time and effort into it, it’s a good way to come up with some needed cash. Some are too lazy to return them to the store for a dime, so they throw them away but then others see that as free money.
Truly in need? Or freeloaders?
Lately however, there has been an increase of panhandlers standing on street corners with a small sign that reads about their woes – out of work, family to feed, any help appreciated etc. Getting on or off the freeway exits, you’ll encounter multiple beggars. Also around the mall area, same deal.
Our local news station did a few stories on the increase in pan handlers. One of those interviewed said he makes about $50 a day outside of Target. That’s $350 a week, tax free, for standing outside holding a sign, taking advantage of people’s kindheartedness.
Here’s where I have a serious problem with this: We have homeless shelters. We have soup kitchens. We have food banks. We have organizations to help out with emergency needs. We have social services. We have plenty of employers looking to hire. We have jobs that go unfilled.
People being down on their luck or finding themselves in difficult situations, I get. It’s unfortunate and there is no reason anyone should ever go hungry in this land of plenty. But to consider your “job” to stand on a street corner and take advantage of those who have a hard time saying no – is just wrong.
I have no problem walking or driving past someone asking for money. I don’t feel guilty or obligated. As I said initially, I’m happy to donate and help out – but I’ll give to the legitimate organizations who exist to help those who are genuinely struggling. Sadly, for some, for whatever reason getting help from strangers may be their own solution. Unfortunately so many who don’t have legit stories ruin it for all the others.
What about you? How do you feel about panhandlers? Do you give to them when confronted?