By Chuck Woodbury
Everywhere you go in big cities these days there are beggars standing on street corners with cardboard signs. They usually say they’re homeless. Some say they’re veterans. Most just want money but others say they will work.
I give money to maybe one in 100 of these people. I don’t trust them. I know that some people earn a decent living doing this. I could never do it, but then again if I were totally broke and hungry, I suppose I might. I am not happy that I am skeptical, but I can’t help thinking that my money will go towards liquor or drugs. I know that many people genuinely need help. It’s just you can’t tell the honest people from the pros who beg for a living.
I often give $2 to homeless people who sell Real Change, a Seattle-based newspaper about homelessness. I figure they’re selling something, not just asking for a handout. The person selling the paper gets to keep $1.40. They are always very nice when I pay them. You can read about some of the Real Change sellers here.
WHAT I HAVE NOTICED IN THE RURAL MIDWEST, where I am now, is that there are no people with cardboard signs. I suppose that’s because everybody knows everybody. If someone is really in trouble, I bet their neighbors would help. In metropolitan areas, a person could be a beggar and never be recognized by anyone. They could pull a scam if they wanted and probably make good money.
I have traveled a bit in Europe, and I can’t recall seeing people standing on street corners with cardboard signs. You see people begging in the cities, but they’re usually sitting along a building on a busy sidewalk, usually with their heads down with a box or hat in front of them. Some of these people are physically hurting, you can tell.
What about you? Do you give money to beggars with cardboard signs? If you don’t mind, would you respond to the poll below? And please leave a comment. Thanks.