Being the fifth car back from the traffic light I could not see her once my car came to a stop. But as I was pulling up into my position to wait for red to become green on the traffic light the woman’s handmade sign was easy to read except the bottom portion her hands holding it obscured: “Homeless Family, needs money for gas…”
I feel for such people who have swallowed their pride to become beggars on a street corner, but have conflicting thoughts about how legitimate their need is and how they will use the money. After all I have read and heard, I am always suspicious.
In the past I have responded to a signs like “No Money, Need Food” by offering to take a beggar to a restaurant and buy them a meal, but I have never had any takers. They simply wanted money and nothing else. It’s estimated the average sign bearer working a busy intersection takes in $100 to $300 per day if they are dedicated. Pan-handling this way five weekdays out of ten and taking in $100 per day would net $13,000 tax-free per year. Working the same amount and getting $300 a day would equal three times that or $39,000. Treated like a real “job” where every other week was not taken “off” these amounts would double.
On-line there are numerous pages of panhandling hints like this:
1- Swallow your pride. You’re going to have to suck it up and be humble.
2- Remember what you’re offering. People give you money because it makes them feel good.
3- Clean up. Before you begin, make an effort to look presentable.
4- Make a sign. A simple sign tells your story—it’s advertising, plain and simple.
5- Find a suitable location. The more traffic you can get, the better.
6- Smile and greet people courteously. You’d be surprised how far a smile will go.
7- Ask for money directly and softly.
8- Remember the regulars. Remember people who give you money regularly.
9- Thank everybody. If someone gives you money, show your appreciation.
10- Offer a small token of thanks. Something cheap and easy, even a painted bottle cap will do.
Yesterday, just before the light changed, the woman holding the “Homeless Family…” sign came into view as she walked to an older SUV parked nearby and spoke to a child in the passenger front seat. The boy looked to be 10 or 12 and I could not help but wonder what he was learning from watching his Mother beg for money. Will the experience entice him to do the same thing and believe he can live without working? Or will it give him strength and determination to try and never be in the same situation.
Red became green and as I passed by the corner the woman was just arriving back at her corner position from talking to her son. The woman and boy remained in my thoughts on and off through out the day with me wondering what their real situation was and what sort of Christmas they might have. In my youth I was never homeless and hungry only because friends took me in for a few weeks while I got back on my feet. I am grateful to them to this day for their help and for what I was taught by having no money and no home.
These are people who never, ever would have
imagined themselves being homeless. Ever!
If you really talk to a large cross-section of people,
you realize that they’re not that different
from us or our uncles or our aunts.
It’s like we know these people.