Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Asking For It

I was walking through the LRT (train) pedway heading back to work from class yesterday when a fellow walked up to me asking for change.

I said "Sorry bud", and kept walking.

Thankfully he wasn't like that guy back in October :s

I was reminded of a comic that Money Rabbit posted a while back:

It's sad but true, and it got me thinking about the experiences I've had with pan handlers over the last 5.5 years.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm a rural girl. I moved to the city for my 2nd year of university and so far I haven't left. I like the amenities, but I miss the green open spaces. I also miss people not asking me for money.

Until I moved here, I really didn't have any experience with pan handlers. There were the drunks who asked for money up north, but I just knew to avoid walking down the streets they frequented. Here.... it's kind of unavoidable.

My first experience with panhandlers was the evening I moved down to Edmonton. We unpacked the truck, and I went to the grocery store with my parents. When we got out of the truck, this woman came over asking us for money. My dad got down right angry, and told her very firmly to go away. He wasn't swearing or anything like that, but you could hear it in his voice that he was mad. He's a very firm believer in working for your money, and he doesn't believe there is any excuse to be walking around begging for it. He has shaped a lot of my opinions in this regard.

I will admit that some people do fall on hard times, and they need a hand. I'm reminded of one fellow up in Grande Prairie (further north than Edmonton), who was holding a sign saying he was stranded and was willing to work for food, shelter, etc... I really couldn't help him much with that, but I did go buy a coffee from a nearby shop and take it to him. It was kinda cold out that day.

Fast forward a couple years though, and I'm being approached by a guy asking for money in front of the Tim Horton's on my walk to school. He was wearing designer clothes, listening to an iPod, cell phone in one hand with the other out stretched asking for money. Seriously? Your jeans cost more than everything I'm wearing combined. I realized then that not everyone asking for money was actually in need. Fair or not, my response to people asking for money did change that day. I don't give out a cent anymore.

That being said, if I just had breakfast/lunch/dinner at a restaurant, I have left overs, and you're saying you're hungry: You can have them. I don't consider the price of the meal either, for better or worse.

I think one of the most off putting experiences I had was while I was working on a construction site back in the Summer/Fall of 2008. We were building up an area so that a bridge could be put in for an interchange. As a result, I could see the entire site from where I was, and boy did I see things. Practiced pan handlers walking up and down the median asking people for money when the lights turned red, like clockwork. Fights and turf wars over who could work in certain areas. People handing out not change, but $5, $10 and $20 bills. Light after light. These guys were making more money begging for change than I was working on the construction site.

I kind of wanted to stand in a median holding a sign saying that.

The worst part is that these guys were dropped off every morning by a black SUV, and picked up every evening.

Organized panhandling.

I'm not even joking.

Think about the power of asking for money for a minute. Now go ask your boss for a raise. You'll never get the money if you don't ask for it, just ask the pan handlers ;)

Now, I fully distinguish between people begging for money, and people working for it. Take busking for example. There was an article in a recent issue of Money Sense about a fellow who busked to pay for some of his medical school tuition. My hat is off to him, 100%. I even give credit to the non-trained musicians. There's one guy who sits out in front of Rexall by the LRT station after every hockey game trying to earn money. He has an assortment of buckets and containers that he's set up like a drum set, and he beats out a tune with a couple of sticks.

Somebody give the guy a job, he obviously has some ingenuity.

Anyway, that's where I stand on this. I am curious about something though: To those of you who give money to pan handlers, do you include the money in your tithing budget? I've been sitting here wondering that the whole time I've been writing this. Any interesting stories?


Anonymous said...

Organized panhandling is crazy. It used to be out of control here with the squeegee kids.

As much as I feel for some people who are in bad situations, I always say no now and donate to the Mission instead. I used to give a twoonie or loonie here and there but one time, not 5 minutes after giving a dude in a wheelchair my change I saw him stand up, pack up his wheelchair and walk away. I was SO mad!

Morgaine said...

Organized panhandling! That's crazy!

I remember a story I read in the newspaper once about a lady pandhandling in Toronto (where I am from) and that her son dropped her off and picked her up everyday and she lived with him in his huge condo with all the amentities! The son basically let his mother panhandle for extra cash! Sickening :(

I just feel that if I gave to one I would have to give to them all otherwise its not fair. However, how do I know who is on the street because of circumstances beyond their control or because they have a drinking/drug problem. But, because there are SO MANY panhandlers in Toronto, I would be broke myself if I gave money to everyone I saw asking for it on a daily basis. So, I don't give any. I just donate to other causes and give food to the daily bread food bank.

Louise said...

sounds a bit like getting dropped of for a day at work.
I don't give money to panhandlers or door to door sales people. I will give to buskers & street performers though.

Rubee said...

Wow! Sounds like panhandling is big business where you are. We don't really have people coming up to you asking for change here. Those that usually do tend to be drug users, or that is what I've been told.

After reading somewhere that the homeless guy who lives in front of Myer (a department store) in my city earns over $50k a year just begging for supposed medical and divorce bills that seems to last for years, I don't give money to those people anymore. It's sad because I do think there are people out there that need the help but you never know if it's for the right reasons or not now.

Anonymous said...

I was taken aback when I moved to the city and saw panhandlers for the first time. I'd never been asked for money before and it caught me off guard. I don't give money to panhandlers - I prefer to donate to the food bank or organizations like the United Way.