Perfectly Healthy Woman Panhandles As Car Accident Victim

NY bumWatched by news reporters, a perfectly healthy, woman, perhaps in her early 20s was caught panhandling.

How Did She Do It?

As her workday began, she would dress up as an old woman and hobble on a pair of crutches.  In fact, she was so bent over that her back was nearly parallel with the ground.  As she walked, she carried a paper cup in her hand for collecting cash donations.  By her appearance, pedestrians were quite convinced she was really handicapped.

This woman hung out on streets such as 5th Avenue in downtown New York.  She would only walk down avenues that contained eccentric stores as Gucci, Prada, Nieman Marcus, and Tiffany’s-locations where she knew that the more affluent and generous people shopped.

On busy days she would collect as many as 50 donations in one hour.  As she approached passer-bys she used lines as “Please help me” and those who gave, she thanked and said “God bless you.”

Confronted By News Reporters

She was secretly watched by a female news reporter for at least three days.  When she was finished begging for the day, she would commute on a bus out to Queens.  It was there where she parked her minivan and change into her normal clothes and then exited without the crutches.  She dressed in nice clothes and wore Ugg boots.

The reporter stated, “It’s a totally different looking woman that emerges when the van pulls over.  Why it’s a miracle, she is walking perfectly fine and the crutches are gone.”

Another reporter was told that she was paralyzed in a car accident.  He asked her “What happened?”  She responded, “Accident.”

The news team’s cameras recorded her crossing streets, meeting with friends, walking up stairs, and stopping as stores to shop as she carried a cell phone.  Finally the reporter confronted her and told her “We had been watching you for a few days and you don’t really need those crutches do you?  We saw you this morning walking perfectly fine.”

How did she respond to that?  She simply ignored the reporter and continued walking down the street.

My Advice

Remember this story.  Some bums are well-to-do people dressed up in costumes.

When approached by such a person, don’t be so eager to give them money.  If you see repeatedly see the same beggar hanging out in a specific location, this should raise a red flag.  If this individual approaches you, tell them you observed them numerous times and you are suspicious of them.  Suggest a place they can go for help.  Find out these locations.  If you’re able to snap a picture of with your cell phone, do so and submit it to local authorities.

For those who commute to work and back using public transportation, you should not have to be approached by panhandlers every day.  Downtown shoppers should also be able to shop without having to run into them.  Not only do they annoy people, but they hurt businesses in areas they hang out in.  By giving to a beggar, you’re only promoting such behavior.

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Panhandlers: To Give or Not to Give

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California.

English: Panhandler in Oceanside, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re in most every big city these days: panhandlers. It seems like you can’t go downtown anymore without being greeted by at least one of them.  Needless to say, they degrade our cities and make life a little less pleasant for anyone who chooses to shop downtown.

You can even find them in the suburbs at the top of highway ramps or in parking lot exits.  Some will hold cardboard signs in big black letters.  Those downtown often sit on sidewalks or bridges, many with their heads tucked down between their knees, with signs and/or umbrellas.

Beggars hurt businesses in areas of heavy panhandling, especially shopping malls.  Overall, they can hurt downtown commerce as a whole because innocent shoppers fear they can’t walk the sidewalks or return to their cars without running into a panhandler.

There are different races of these people and of course all of them are usually dressed in dirty, ragged clothes.  These people are often referred to as bums, squatters, the homeless, etc.  You’ll usually hear them use the word “brother.”  Apparently, they’re insinuating that giving money to them is just like giving money to your brother.  Anyone I’ll never see again could never be my brother.

Another common phrase is “God bless you!”  Will God bless me?  I’ve heard it said in church many times: Whatever you give to another, God will give you that same thing 100 times back.  Later I heard that what you give must be a sacrifice to yourself.  Sure, anyone in this world will give you something if it is of no potential value to them.

Should You Give to A Panhandler?

What should you do if someone approaches you and asks for a small amount of money?  Should you give it to them or not?  Do they really need money or are they just putting on an act?  That all depends on how you view this particular person and the way they present themselves.  Once they receive money, many beggars slip into alleyways and buy drugs.  Even the dealers know that certain loyal customers are not homeless.

There are genuine panhandlers and there are scammers.   The genuine ones of course are homeless and absolutely need money to eat.  The scammers more likely aren’t homeless, but are looking for cash to buy booze or drugs or simply an extra income.  Usually, they will dress in ragged, dirty clothing to convince you that they are genuine.  Others do it just to see how much they can make as a second income.  On a bad day, successful ones make at least $20 while on good days, around $300.

I don’t like giving money to them unless they absolutely need it.  I’ve helped a number of them but then again, walked away from many others.  Once I handed them money, my feelings of being a good Samaritan turned into feelings of self-consciousness.  It was then I felt they played me for a chump.  Then I realize that they only do it because they know people will give them money.  Most of all, I hate the feeling of apathy most of them radiate.

Panhandlers often try to play on one’s conscience.  Some act really friendly as a potentially good acquaintance and others may try to make you feel sorry for them by making up some long story about how rough things are.  Once you’re approached by one, you are in a situation where you must think on your toes.  If you’re absolutely ruthless and maybe mean, you’ll have the gull to walk away.  However, if you’re kind and empathetic towards homeless people, you’re likely to give.  For those on the fence, walking away from one may make them feel guilty or selfish.

How do you know if one is genuine or not?  Usually, the real beggars look rather old and haggardly.  These people usually look real soiled and have wrinkled faces and long beards.  It’s best to stay away from clean-cut beggars, unless, perhaps they’re stranded somewhere and can’t get home without some money.  If you’re still unsure, it is best to just walk away or ignore them.

If you find that difficult, you can start by having a short conversation with them. You might ask questions like:

What do you need the money for?

Are you homeless?

How long have you been homeless?

Have you tried going to a homeless shelter?

Have you tried looking for work?

You need not get nosy, but if you can make them talk for a few minutes, you can find out more things about them.  However, they are likely to lie to make you feel sorry for them and become inclined to give.  Yet, others may not be good liars.  If one you chat with seems to run out of things to say or just walk away, more likely they’re a scammer.

Never make racial remarks to them or stereotype their mode of living.  Not all beggars are black.

I’ve met a few downright, not-so-clever scammers.  Some would try lines like “My car is on fire” but don’t act like it really is.  In fact I heard a smart-ass say this out loud on a bus and nobody responded.  Just by the tone of his voice I could tell that he wanted to see who would respond out of stupidity.    Maybe I should have put him on the spot by saying, “Oh yeah? Show me your burning car!”  Like hell their car is burning, it really doesn’t exist.

Where to Give

I’ll say it again, panhandlers beg for money mostly because they know there’s a very good chance that someone will give them some.  In the long run, giving money to them will never really help them.  You’re just helping them in supporting their squalor lifestyle and bad habits.  It’s just like helping someone live a lie.

If you truly have a heart and a chunk of money to spaer, give to a local Union Gospel Mission or homeless shelter.  Most cities have food shelves and charities that accept used clothing and other household goods, like the Salvation Army.  Especially around Christmas time, many charities as The Angel Tree advertise their services as malls have bell ringers who collect money in red pans.  Find out where these agencies are in your city and suggest them to each beggar.

By giving to these entities, you know that what you give will go for a good cause-not towards a drug or alcohol addiction.  Most of all, you can feel good about contributing.  You can deduct charitable contributions on your income tax return at the end of the year.

One final note, make sure that the organization you give to is legitimate.  Once you learn about their existence, check them out online to make sure they’re real.  If you’re confronted by a so-called rep, ask for a pamphlet or a business card.  If they have no documentation, don’t give.  Never give them cash outright, but write a check payable to that organization.

Please feel free to comment.  If there’s something I left out or you disagree with me, I would appreciate your input.

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Recession-Related Suicides

In 1931, over 1000 unemployed men marched from...

In 1931, over 1000 unemployed men marched from the Esplanade to the Treasury Building in Perth, Western Australia to see Premier Sir James Mitchell. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Are there recession-related suicides?  Yes!   Suicide rates have risen 20% during the Great Depression.  With that in mind, I began to wonder if some folks have ended their lives just because of the recession.  Long periods of unemployment affect former job holders much greater than one can imagine.

 

It is not so surprising that jobless consumers are two to three times more likely to consider taking their own lives according to The Washington Independent website.  Here, you can read stories of homeless people that are having difficulties and cannot depend on local public services as the Department of Human Services (DHS) or the Salvation Army.  This only leaves them to roam the streets day and night with no particular place to go or no goals to pursue.

 

Those lucky enough to have a roof over their head, especially homeowners, are still under a great amount of stress.  For most, their unemployment checks are about to run out, their utilities are endangered of being shut off, and they must choose between feeding their families or living in a home where all of the utilities are running.  At the same time, these individuals or families are facing a possible eviction or foreclosure.  To top it all off, some are in danger of or have had their vehicles repossessed.  Some would like to purchase nicer things, but have no choice but to make do with what they have.  Others have no funds to replace things if they break down (as the furnace, an appliance, etc).

 

Consider those with pets.  We must not forget they need food and periodic care.  Those who are in severe financial turmoil may have no choice but to abandon them.  Turning in unwanted pets to the humane society may seem harsh, but what else can their owners do?  What if the animal shelter is full and cannot accept any more?  It is then up to the owner to decide what to do with them.  Finding someone who will adopt them is rarely easy, if not impossible.  Some may go as far as killing them or turning them loose into the wild.  Needless to say, it tears an owner’s heart out to abandon his pets.

 

I have sympathy for these people.

 

Not only is this stressful to the bread winners, but also seemingly disgraceful.  It leaves them between a rock and a hard place.  They’ve sent out countless numbers of resumes with no response back and have become tired and hopeless when considering their job search.

 

What are these parents suppose to tell their children?   What once dependents expected from their parents (clothing, food, and shelter) is nearly gone (if not completely gone).  Children, especially younger ones, will be heartbroken knowing they’re being deprived of what they hoped to have.  Tension can grow as siblings must fight one-another for things they need.

 

In 2007 I had a one-week temporary job for a furniture rental store.  My duty was to ride along with the truck driver to pick up or deliver furniture.  I remember stopping at a large, new home and hauling out a living room set because the woman renting it could no longer make her payments.  When we were done, her living room was nearly empty.  I thought about her three little children who ran around the house as we moved the couch and the chairs out to the truck.  Though they were very little, I bet they wondered why all the furniture suddenly disappeared.  This is just a typical example that some unemployed families face.

 

Now, imagine you’re a debt collector or a utility service representative.  While it goes without saying, most all believe these employees are cold and heartless.  Although some may seem that way, they are human too.  After all, they’re only doing what they must to keep their jobs.  It isn’t easy to tell a customer that they must possess their car or shut off their lights because a payment wasn’t received in three months or so.

 

So, what do all these things have to do with recession suicides?  A lot!  Losing a job no doubt has a domino effect on one’s life.  Going months without being able to land another one forces a family to lose their once great standard of living.  This causes misery for everyone and depression for the unemployed.  In severe cases, some families become homeless.  A hopelessly jobless adult may feel that the only way out of his problems is to end his life.

 

About how many suicides are there?  Coming up with an accurate, up-to-date answer is difficult as figures change continuously.  According to a recent video by The Week   in Indiana, the suicide rate of unemployed victims is about 11%.  Recession-related homicides occur as well and are about 9%. These figures vary among city and state  About 6.6 million Americans have been unemployed for six months or longer.

 

Fortunately, there is help for those who’ve become distraught and feel that they’re at the end of their ropes.  Along with the 211 line, there is a toll free number: 1-800-273-TALK which is answered 24 hours a day.  Most all large cities have community centers and crisis lines that can be called day or night.  Some facilities are free while others charge according to one’s income.