I’ve always viewed most panhandlers as victims of circumstances that messed up and had not been given a chance. Society’s invisible people. For the most part, I still believe that to be the case. However, I did witness an exchange between a panhandler and train patron that caught me off guard…
I was on the MARTA a few months back and witnessed a female panhandler making the rounds. She was a regular, someone I’d seen many times before. The big difference that day was this young lady who took more of an interest to the homeless lady than anybody else on the train. After striking out with virtually every other patron, she approached the lady and gave her pitch. The lady responded by digging in her purse and whipping out her middle finger a job application. She told the homeless lady that her dad operated a shelter and was looking for food servers, specifically homeless ones. In return she would be given a place to stay and food! That’s a twofer right there. I was sitting right across from the exchange so when I heard that, I got hype. My opportunity had finally arrived. I was prepared to initiate the slow-clap as soon the two tearfully hugged it out. Everybody would join me and a series of awkward high-fives would follow.
The homeless lady gave her the craziest gas face I’ve ever seen in my life. You would have thought she had indeed dug her in purse whipped out a middle finger or something. Like she was downright insulted. She ignored the lady and continued soliciting people in the train car, perhaps thinking her chances shot up after people witnessed what just happened. After striking out some more, she promptly got out of the car we were in and ran onto the next one. Gone. I was in complete shock. The lady was, too, and she explained to anybody that was listening that this would have been great for her. The lady would have had guaranteed free food, and more importantly, a place to stay. I say more importantly because she could have used the place as an address, a hurdle most homeless people have a tough time getting past when looking for employment. That’s when I decided to end the practice of giving to panhandlers.
Now, I don’t mean to come across as insensitive to the struggles of people. Homelessness is a real problem that effects those who obviously never asked for it. You always hear that more and more people are living check-to-check, a scary reality no doubt. And more often than not, I do see people on the train that seriously look like they’ve been ignored and abandoned by everyone. I always wonder why they’re not somewhere getting proper care instead. But in fact, that’s a major reason why giving to them is urged against. In many ways you’re feeding their possible addiction. Is that why the lady refused the help?
At the end of the day, I think the best move is to give to agencies that provide support for homeless people. Giving to panhandlers keeps them homeless.
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