Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Do you give money to beggars with cardboard signs?

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.


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.



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Steve (@guest_41169)
4 years ago


a “shakey” lady on the streets of Toronto was exposed as such by the local TV. She would take a taxi home to her house in the suburbs.

Even after being exposed as a fraud, she was sooo convincing that people would still give her money when the TV crew displayed the video.

I absolutely refuse to give money to anyone and only donate to a specific organization in which the admin costs are minimal, unlike most of them. You don’t know if they are criminals, drug addict, alcoholic, a scammer or any combination of the above.

Trey Rogers (@guest_12555)
6 years ago

This is a hard one. I have been homeless when very young. Never did I panhandle always being able to find work for at least a day or two a week. However, living day to day scared me to the point change. I give a meal when I can and cash at times. I couldn’t help everyone seeking it even if everyone of them were truly in need. So I donate regularly to groups I have researched and found legitimate and supplement my giving when my gut tells me I should. It is the best I can do?!

Neil Glenn (@guest_12203)
6 years ago

Friend of mine saw one with a sign, “Will work for food!”, so he stopped. Told the guy he needed help cutting firewood, and would supply a big dinner when finished. Guy got in, only rode a couple of blocks, then said, “Ill get out here.” So much for ‘working for food’! Another was interviewed by local paper, said he made about $100 A DAY! SUUUUuure, I will give HIM money!

Bluebird Bob (@guest_12193)
6 years ago

Saw a guy with one leg and a crutch and a sign stating he was a vet on an offramp in Portland. I was 3 cars back and saw the first two give him some dollars. Didn’t give him any money. Coming back on I5 further down I was stopped at a light and saw this same guy at a nearby station by a pay phone with maybe a 3 year old Camero with the door open and he was rubbing his “missing leg” that had been tucked back up in his baggy pants. Good con.

Billy Bob Thorton (@guest_12418)
6 years ago
Reply to  Bluebird Bob

Guy probably voted for Hilldabeast!

kc (@guest_12170)
6 years ago

While hubby was filling up the motorhome at Pilot (yup, took a while, so had plenty of time to witness), I watched a fellow beg from several people, none of whom gave him any money or food. I actually thought he was simply soliciting or giving directions in a couple instances. However, he approached hubby on his way back to our RV, and I saw as hubby listened then spoke, then entered our coach. He told me the guy had been asking for money to go buy lunch….well,we don’t often carry cash anymore, but it was getting close to lunchtime, and we’d already planned on stopping just down the road to split our usual PBJ (peanut butter and jam) sandwich. Hubby offered that I would make him a whole one, give him a glass of milk and a piece of fruit. Sure, I would have too, but the dude said he didn’t “want no PBJ,” he “only wants beer money.” WHAAAA? Heck of a lunch. I guess he thought honesty would get him a dollar?

Terri (@guest_12150)
6 years ago

So I always carry a bag with a few cans of soup, meats or chef boyardee that are all pop top, disposable utensils, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, cloth, deodorant & few bottles of water Often throw a pair of socks in too with the occ grocery store gift card for $5-10 …don’t care if they prefer to get tobacco or beer with it .. they probably need that now & then more than I do. Their choice.
Always get their name & backstory & take a second (or more if safe) to pray with them or for them. When I get a different story on a second visit that is the end for me helping out.
I tend to put in the time & effort with those I see often, one is now sober (used to leave his bag next to him on the ground) & the other really chooses to live this way & often has specific food requests … get to buy fruit for him.

SusanB (@guest_12138)
6 years ago

I do when I have something to give. It’s not mine to judge who can or cannot work, or cannot find work. I can’t know who “the least of my bretheren” are, so I give without asking. It’s a lousy buck, people, or it’s a sandwich and a cup of coffee. And more importantly, if I don’t have anything on me to give, I at least try to acknowledge them. One of the hardest things about being reduced to begging is being invisible and one of the greatest gifts for the truly disenfranchised is when someone acknowledges them with a kind word. “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money on me, but I hope things get better for you.” I learned that from one of the homeless, by the way. Not long after, I struck up an conversation with a homeless man who spent his days outside the Starbucks near my work. He relied on friends in bad weather and often slept outside, because shelters were too dangerous. Sometimes, he would sell flowers or help another street vendor for a few bucks. He hadn’t had steady employment in 20 years. Partly because of having been incarcerated and partly because he wasn’t terribly bright, no one would hire him. But he was a sweet man who spent what little he had to buy a get well card when my husband–who he didn’t even know–had surgery. At Christmas one year, I gave him a Starbucks card (he hung out every day by the local one) and then added enough for a meal every payday. I encouraged his frequent efforts to find work but realized after awhile that it wasn’t going to happen. Still, we became friends and I continue to pray for him and those like him. Not everyone is born with what it takes to get ahead. So yeah, it’s a lousy buck or the price of a sandwich and coffee, and I don’t question whether they truly need it or not. And if I don’t have any cash, I try to at least smile and ask how the person is doing. It’s out of my comfort zone, but it’s the right thing to do.

Carolyn DeLoach (@guest_12128)
6 years ago

While parked in a Walmart parking lot making repairs to a damaged tow hitch I had a young man walk up. He carried a back pack and looked college age. He straightened his back and offered his help in exchange for a meal. He was clean, hair combed, and physically strong. I thanked him but declined his offer as I was finished and about to get back on the interstate. He continued walking towards the interstate ramp nearby. I watched as this individual completely transitioned from being a strong, strapping young man capable of physical labor to one with a severe limp, dragging his left foot. He slumped his shoulders, untied his long hair and messed it up. As I drove by I could not believe it was the same person. He went from a strong, able college kid to a broken, down trodden human being. Quite the con artist.

John Daynes (@guest_12018)
6 years ago

I can always spot a faker from someone who is genuinely in distress, because I have been one of those people (for three very long years)! I can’t really portray which is which, it’s just an intuition I’ve learned from hard experience. Those of us who were genuinely in need tended to gang together to force the fakers off the street – violence was usually involved. I usually help those in genuinely needful situations, because I know who they are!

Rene Maloon (@guest_11951)
6 years ago

My husband worked for Union Gospel Mission & I have helped volunteer at their camp. We have cards we give so they can get a meal, shower, room (3 hots & a cot as John says) most will turn it down. You have to be sober they say…UGM will do more for the homeless than giving them money on the street. So, no I won’t give them money, but we do try to give them a hand up, not a handout.

littleleftie (@guest_11892)
6 years ago

Saw a group of “regulars” switching over at the end of their “shift”….watched the one coming on shift ride an old bike up under a bridge, park it and walked up onto the road. The one going off shift walked back down under the bridge, jumped on the bike and rode away. Obviously this was an organized scam. Makes me angry because seeing these people begging, wearing nice leather boots, good coats, carrying a relatively nice backpack and often wearing chains or similar “jewellery” and often with a large, well-nourished dog. I think to myself—go get a job. Even the temporary agencies would hire someone for a day here and a day there. I have offered to purchase a meal or a coffee but have usually been rebuffed==being told that no, they wanted cash. No, I wont give money. But our town has special “parking” meters downtown–for donations of charitable coins–that are donated to a select number of organizations helping homeless or needy individuals. Anyone can walk up to the meters, painted bright yellow, and put in a few coins. A much better solution for those who like to donate… my opinion

Jillie (@guest_11857)
6 years ago

If you pan handle in our township? You will be fined. This type of begging is a scam. I am hearing more and more that the people are just mentally ill and do it to pass the time. I am also hearing from the news that they are being shipped in by vans. You pay the driver a percentage and you keep the rest. John Stossell from 20 20 did a huge thing on this. So no. Do not give them money. They can work. I also saw one woman begging? Two days later walking her children to school Dressed very well I might add. Just a thought folks.

panicum (@guest_12094)
6 years ago
Reply to  Jillie

“Just mentally ill”? Seriously? Please, do your yourself a favor and read “No One Cares About Crazy People” by the Pulitzer award winning author, Ron Powers. His sons were both diagnosed with schizophrenia and his youngest killed himself. It’s not an easy read, in fact, it is guaranteed to make anyone with that attitude very uncomfortable.

Magee (@guest_12372)
6 years ago
Reply to  Jillie

“Just mentally ill” – yes, a lot are, but they are on the streets due to closing of mental hospitals. Most could not be considered employable. They may not know how to handle it, but giving them a dollar won’t decrease my standard of living.

rolan lajoi (@guest_11840)
6 years ago

We do not give out money. There are many types of ( begged ) looking for a hand-out . Some of them earn quite a living at this .
We are in a way selective on whom we give to . We carry up to 10 $5.00 gift cards front WENDY’S. We feel for those folks that are hungry this the best place for them to go. Have from time to time been told not interested !
One afternoon at a Trader Joe’s in Tucson came across a young couple dumpster diving ; early mid 20’s . Offered them two certificates , was told thank you but that they were vegetarians. I said that Wendy’s has some good fresh salads and baked potatoes. They then accepted them with a heart full thank you.
In Nevada had been confronted by a woman witwith several children. Gave her certificates for them all . Very much appreciated.
Pulling out of a Pilot’s had a young man holding a ( cardboard sign )
It read Please need money to buy ammunition !! Kept right on going.
Give cash NO it’s to easy for some of these people. We have an epidemic in this Country with way too many people out their begging for many different kinds of aid. It’s nearly imposible to help all those you come accross.

Jim (@guest_11837)
6 years ago

I don’t give them money but I have gone to the nearest fast food restaurant and bought a lunch to go and took back to them.

Mark Sanderson (@guest_11835)
6 years ago

We have a condo in the N San Diego County CA area. What we’ve noticed on several street corners is the individuals begging use the same cardboard sign over and over. It’s hidden between a stop sign and its post. When a new guy shows up for “work ” he just pulls out the folded sign and he’s in business.

Hazel Lorane (@guest_11816)
6 years ago

It’s really difficult, one doesn’t want to support drugs, etc., however, it’s good to remember that “for the grace of God” that could be me, a relative or someone we know. We donate locally to a homeless shelter/food pantry, but have learned that giving food (cold water bottles, snack paks, etc., purchasing a meal or a fast food gift card) is welcome by most. I would hope that someone would help any family member, relative, etc. should they be in need. Our minister suggested that one help another human in the case of not knowing the need. Having managed a temporary employment service, I know that those who are physically/mentally able could in many cases get temporary work. If only the mentally ill could find and accept help, the homeless situation would decrease.

Mike & Louise Bacque (@guest_11796)
6 years ago

My wife and I have come across some folks down on their luck while travelling. We are particularly apt to assist if they have a pet (dog) with them. We’ll often buy a loaded coffee shop or restaurant card or an actual meal, seldom do we dole out cash. We also buy a little something for the pet. Those we help are visibly without, often carrying their life’s possessions with them and living in makeshift shelters. We’re fortunate to enjoy a full-time lifestyle and view it to be no issue to help out another human being as we can’t judge the person’s life and circumstances which led them to have to ask for money.

Randy Summers (@guest_11790)
6 years ago

The most beggars my wife and I have ever seen is in Las Vegas NV. Mostly young people, not sure if they are homeless or just lazy.

Bonnie Bowers (@guest_11817)
6 years ago
Reply to  Randy Summers

I live in Vegas and there is a bunch that meander and set up camp on Washington St. and many more who live underground off the boulevard. It’s sad to see whole families, with school aged children out there. Phoenix is another bad area of people down on there luck. Its a sad thing in Vegas. I tbink they need more facilities for them but many want to be left alone because they have been abused so much. There are fake homeless too….beware!

Michele Beckler (@guest_11789)
6 years ago

I live in Portland Oregon and the beggars on almost every major intersection is horrible. I never give money because it has been shown by multiple agencies that cash goes to drugs and alcohol. I will however, if I’m at 7-11 and am asked for food, buy a meal and give it to a person. There are many organizations in Portland that help the homeless and my time and donations go to them because I know they can be trusted. Another subject of concern in Portland are the “zombie” rvs…homeless that live in an RV that moves from place to place. I know, I know, that’s a whole other subject but one that, as a new RV owner, I’m very concerned about.

Bob Sanders (@guest_11779)
6 years ago

When we use to travel by RV, we would always see some beggars by the Pilots/FJ stations. A few times we would give them a sandwich and soda from our RV. Very few times have we ever given cash, it is hard to really tell if they are homeless or what. When I see an individual with a sign saying he is a veteran, I want to ask him why didn’t he stay in the service for 20 years and retire like I did. Today we travel by car and pass them all up.

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