A little drama

shymilfromchiAugust 20, 2012

I suppose that many large cities have their share of panhandlers. In our city, the police try to chase them away, but they manage to do their work by going further away from the central city where they are not so apt to be bothered. And so, one in particular has caught our attention. He has chosen a busy street which we frequently travel. It has two lanes of traffic going each way. The main value for him of this street is that the traffic lights stay on red for quite a long period of time which gives him the ability to cover a lot of territory to earn his living. There may be as many as 20 to 24 cars stalled, waiting for the light to turn green.

When we noticed him for the first time, his hair was long and rather greasy. He wore a tattered jacket and khaki pants, and had a large khaki knapsack on his back. He carried a very big cardboard sign reading in large letters "HOMELESS". The sign must have become burdensome, or perhaps ineffective, and he got rid of it, only to replace it the next day with a smaller one with the words "HOMELESS VET" written in dark letters. Several days later, that sign also disappeared and a feigned limp took its place.

Several months passed and his hair was now shorter, cleaner, and had what appeared to be a customized tousled look. His old jacket was replaced with a warmer one that appeared to be torn on purpose. His shoes now were new, athletic, and expensive, but good shoes are needed for an occupation that requires him to be on his feet all day.

He was learning on the job. The light would change and he would be off on his mission. He would quickly start, shaking a McDonald�s coffee cup at the first driver�s window. If the driver did not respond fast enough, on he would go on, eyes forever roaming, looking for his next customer. A driver�s license reading North Dakota or some other more rural state might mean that the people in that car were perhaps more apt to be amenable to his pleas than his usual, more jaded, city dwelling targets. But what we enjoyed most was when he changed from limping on his right leg to his left leg and when the cars that had been stopped, started on their journey and were out of sight, he gave his legs a rest and just walked normally.

Finally, we thought that he had gone as far as he could to advance in his career path, he seemed to have it down to a science, when there he was, listlessly shaking his cup by the first car while talking intently on the newest model of an Iphone! He appeared to be a little worried or depressed and we wondered whether something serious had come his way.

The following days, our subject was missing, but in his place was a bent over, grizzled old man leaning on a cane. He wasn�t as skillful as our subject man, though you�d think that his condition would give him an advantage, but he didn�t have the agility to service as many cars. Then in two days, he also was gone. For the next three days, there was a large lady carrying a large sign that read "HOMELESS 6 CHILDREN NO MONEY FOR FOOD".

And then our original skillful fellow was back, and we finally figured it our, its a franchise. There is always only one person servicing this street corner at a time. Our guy may have been on vacation. The weather had been very hot and everyone deserve a little rest away from the job once in a while.


Not quite the same situation.

Our car needed servicing and the garage was several miles away. My DH decided to leave the car there, rather than wait for the repairs to be finished, and take a bus that would let him off close to home. It was November and quite cold, so he decided to stop first for a large cup of coffee at a nearby McDonalds.

As you know, buses never seem to come very often when the weather is inclement. He stepped off the curb and looked around a parked car to see if the bus was coming, holding his coffee in front of him, warming his hands. An old lady using a walker approached him. She shouted at the top of her lungs, "Get a job you bum". He turned around in time to see her slowly walk off with a pleased smile on her face. She had rid the neighborhood of a beggar and set her little corner of the world aright. BTW, he is retired, he never goes anywhere without being neatly dressed, seldom is shouted at by a senior citizen, and never carries a cardboard sign.

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In Nashville, the homeless don't pandhandle. They sell newpapers called The Contributor. The paper requests a $1 donation. I'll give them change or I may give them a $5 or nothing. Depends on the day and how many people I've passed already. Once the ability to sell those papers came about, there are people selling them on every corner. I appreciate that they are selling something concrete, and have a chance for advancement. Instead, I wish we had a business that offered them a job inside instead of on the streets, I hate seeing them have to brave the weather constantly!, but it's better than change cups, the way it was before. Further, I assume police can arrest anyone who isn't selling papers, instead begging for change. I'm also glad it took people off the ramps from the interstate. That looked precarious. So I guess it gave the city the right to regulate our population. For their safety and dignity. Wonder what a good busines would be that entailed them being inside? I'd love to participate in that! We also have a mission for those who don't want to sell, but there are even some who refuse that (according to Ed who worked with the DownTown Partnership and saw these folks on an ongoing basis). I think the mission expects one to be at least trying to be sober, and their programs are Christian-based. If that's who funds it, I guess they get the say-so. It'd be different if it was a government run business. Anyway, there are multiple chances for help! if it is wanted.

At least she didn't put coins in your husband's coffee! which is what I thought you were going to say.


Here is a link that might be useful: Nashville's homeless paper

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:04AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

We have the panhandlers at several corners around busy intersections. It is a racket. One of our news stations did an undercover story on them and another friend of mine did some sleuthing too. They make extremely good money. Way more than my salary.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:22AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Here's one of the stories.

Here is a link that might be useful: $60,000.00 a year

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:23AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Being one's own boss is so much more appealing than the rigors of a set schedule and a time clock.

I've seen one of these professionals also. When I moved close enough to the beach to drive down for day trips, I of course started doing so. The first time I saw a particular panhandler at an intersection, I felt guilty about having so much "extra" money that we could gas up the car to go play at the beach that I gave him a couple dollars. A few weeks later, at the same intersection, I noticed another panhandler, no wait, it's the same guy. Almost every time we go through that intersection for the past few years, there's that same guy. The sign changes (which is understandable since cardboard obviously is not very durable, especially if it gets wet) but it's always the same guy. I don't blame him for not giving up his shift on the weekends to a part-timer. I imagine business is really good in a place where most of the people don't live there. I admire his intelligence and work ethic. I'm sure it would be a lot more fun to work the beach, but who has their wallet?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:36AM
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Neil and I saw a young man in Scotland once sitting on the
street with his guitar, dog and a cap. He would start playing a song.
People would stop and listen, the dog would
take the cap and walk up to the people and collect
donations . He would return the money filled cap to his
owner, take his treat, turn to the crowd do a little happy
dance and lie down til the next crowd showed up.
Neil had to drag me away so we would have enough money to
finish our trip. I loved that little dog.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 12:33AM
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