Patterico's Pontifications

4/25/2008

Kids Who Panhandle

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 11:53 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

It’s not unusual to see panhandlers on street corners asking for money. KUTV in Salt Lake, Utah, investigated and found that some panhandlers on their streets aren’t what they appear to be:

“2News reporter Mike Headrick spent the last couple months following some of these panhandlers, and after his investigation we discovered that, chances are, your money is not going where you think.

With each passing glance, there is a story. Megan Elmer hopes that her story will tug at the hearts of those who drive by.

“I’m from Seattle, I came down here to live with my boyfriend and he ended up kicking me out a week before Christmas,” says Megan.

And it is because of that, Megan says she’s spent the last few months begging for money, hoping to make enough cash to buy a bus ticket back to Seattle. “I need about $139 for a ticket,” says Megan.

But when it comes to panhandling, Megan has a very interesting secret. It turns out that everything written on her broken piece of cardboard is a carefully constructed lie.”

The reporter discovered that Megan has nice clothes, a home, and a family and she apparently panhandles for spending money. He estimated that Megan could be making up to $26,000 a year.

It’s refreshing to see local media report stories like this. Hopefully it will shame Megan or her parents into stopping her dishonest behavior. If not, perhaps it will at least put a damper on her collections.

— DRJ

48 Responses to “Kids Who Panhandle”

  1. Two illegal aliens come to LA together and take up panhandling careers. One does fairly well, and after a few years he’s able to afford a modest home and he lives a decent life. He sees that his friend is doing much better, with a 4 bedroom house in a gated community, a Lexus and a couple of mistresses. They both work similar intersections, they both spend about the same amount of time at it, and the less affluent beggar is mystified. Finally, he decides to ask his friend why he’s making so much money. the wealthy beggar tells him “Look at your sign. Will work for food will get you some sympathy and people will give you a dollar or two for some food. But my sign says…
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    “I need $20 so I can go back to Mexico.”

    Pablo (99243e)

  2. I think you just made me your straight man, Pablo, but it’s worth it.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  3. Yeah, but the real money is still in corporate begging — “Need $7 Billion so I can bail out my bank after making moronic investments. Please help.”

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  4. [thumbs through Adventures of Sherlock Holmes until he reaches The Man with the Twisted Lip and settles in for a good read]

    kishnevi (d657df)

  5. They sort of interviewed Megan’s mother in the clip. She seemed already ashamed of the girl’s behavior, but didn’t know how to get her to stop it. Short of kicking the kid out of the house, I’m not sure how much a parent could really do to stop a child that determined.

    PatHMV (653160)

  6. I’m not sure how much a parent could really do to stop a child that determined

    How about the authorities?
    Arrest her for panhandling, take her picture, put it on billboards explaining the situation (charge the family for that one), and simultaneously discourage people from feeding this cycle.

    If anything should make people angry, it’s scammers taking advantage of people’s charity.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  7. PatHMV,

    There’s the old-fashioned way. Don’t let your kids stay alone or go out alone.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  8. “Short of kicking the kid out of the house, I’m not sure how much a parent could really do to stop a child that determined.”

    Then the kid would go beg for money.

    “There’s the old-fashioned way. Don’t let your kids stay alone or go out alone.”

    That sounds more new than old.

    stef (3c2a7a)

  9. Darn it, kishnevi #4, you beat me to it.

    Sometimes, when I see healthy, well-nourished young people panhandling, I wonder whether they’re engaged in some kind of research project. There was an “unwed, expectant mother” on one corner who seemingly stayed in the first trimester of pregnancy for a year.

    nk (284b49)

  10. I am a pretty soft touch when it comes to handing out a buck to an older, bedraggled, possibly insane homeless person, but I pretty much never give a handout to someone who is young and appears capable of work. One thing that is really awful about college towns is that you tend to find so many young layabouts trying to bum change. I wonder if the young lady in this story hangs out near the University of Utah campus.

    JVW (74e424)

  11. Phil #3 –

    You’re reminding me of the scene from Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms, where Molly, the head of the Beggar’s Guild, asks “You couldn’t spare a few thousand dollars for a four-course banquet, could you? No? Fair enough, fair enough.” (Guild seniority rules — begging for small change is an entry-level job, not something the head of the guild should be stooping to).

    Robin Munn (fd52f9)

  12. Short of kicking the kid out of the house, I’m not sure how much a parent could really do to stop a child that determined.

    Drop her off in a city that’s $129 away.

    Daryl Herbert (4ecd4c)

  13. Yeah, but the real money is still in corporate begging — “Need $7 Billion so I can bail out my bank after being blackmailed into making moronic mortgage loans by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Please help.”

    Fixed that for you Phil.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  14. DRJ, did the story say how hold Megan is? If she’s 18, which I think she is, the parent really only has 2 choices: evict the kid, or just nag at them for all the good it’ll do.

    PatHMV (653160)

  15. Hey JVW … this one’s for you.

    Shortly after college my roommate began working in a bank. His first job was at a branch right in the heart of Venice Calif.

    He told me of one of their customers. An old straggly dirty lady who came in every couple of days to make her deposits. He said she always came in with at least $200 to deposit. Her account was quite large – in the many thousands. But she kept begging for change in Venice.

    Ever since hearing my friend’s story I have never given another penny to a panhandler. 1. I’m not about to support someone’s habit if that’s their issue, and 2. I’m not going to get taken by someone who has more zeros in their bank account than I do.

    MOG (f57a20)

  16. PatHMV,

    It didn’t say in the article. It may have said in the video but I haven’t seen that yet. Either way, I hope someone at the IRS watches KUTV.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  17. I’m with you on that one, 100%.

    PatHMV (0e077d)

  18. When I was in law school in the Bay Area, I was approached by a woman explaining she was stranded and needed money for a bus ticket.

    Although I was naive — I was really GOING to do what I proposed in the next paragraph, I wasn’t so gullible as to give cash, which is what she wanted.

    Instead, I offered to walk with her to the bus depot and use my credit card to buy her a ticket.

    And you can guess her reaction: Presented with an offer by someone else to buy her EXACTLY what she SAID she wanted, she balked, searched for a lie about why she had to have cash, then gave up, sputtering.

    That was my “Catcher In The Rye” loss-of-innocence moment. Better late (at 22) than later.

    Mitch (890cbf)

  19. When I was in grad school, I used to get panhandled by a guy who lived across the street from me. And he’d call me nasty names when I wouldn’t give him any money!

    Tom Ault (f2641f)

  20. Tom Ault,

    That’s sad and funny at the same time.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  21. Mitch, I had the same experience with a guy who needed $35 to fix a flat tire. I offered to drive him back to his car and pay the tow truck for the repair. He was deeply offended that a minister should be such a suspicious and unloving person. He accused me of not being a real Christian.

    I get this all the time. some have a better story than others

    Don (542eac)

  22. A good woman I know stopped and picked up a couple with such a sign–I’m Homeless, My Kids are Hungry–and the proceeded to beat her senseless and take all her money and credit cards.

    Wake up, people.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  23. In a genuinely compassionate society, fake panhandling would be a serious offense. After living in the bay area for a couple of years and getting used to ignoring the panhandlers, I was asked by a woman for a quarter to make a phone call because she was out of gas. I walked by her without answering or making eye contact. Then I realized that she was well-dressed and had seemed genuinely embarrassed about asking. After that I was too embarrassed to go back and correct my rudeness. But I was trained to do that by the drunks, drug addicts, and fakes that blanket downtown San Francisco. I blame the San Francisco city government for turning me into the kind of monster who wouldn’t give someone a quarter to make a phone call.

    Doc Rampage (01f543)

  24. I’m sorry to tell all of you guys that you’re all wrong in your moral judgments of the panhandlers. They’re begging you for what you can spare, not for what you will sacrifice. What you do is all up to your whimsy and whether you give them something or not may be everything to them but no more meaningful to your immortal soul than a sidewalk crack you stepped over or the beer that you bought at the bar you were going to.

    nk (284b49)

  25. I got sad news for you Doc. Well-dressed women who ask for money in an embarrassed tone are often panhandlers/con artists. Their hands give them away. The icing on the con is asking you for an address where they can return the money.

    Patterico (04eb90)

  26. NK #24, that’s my philosophy exactly. Even if they are hustlers the dollar that I cough up isn’t going to hurt me financially, and on the off chance that it is a legitimate request I have helped them out. The same idea applies to Doc’s scenario in #23 and Patterico’s reply. It’s worth a buck to me on the off chance that they are legit and I am truly helping them out.

    One of my favorite memories was giving money to a panhandler years ago when I was just of college. This passerby tsk-tsked me and said that I shouldn’t be encouraging the panhandlers. My reply was that I wouldn’t tell her how to spend her disposable income if she would kindly refrain from telling me how to spend mine.

    Just in case anyone wonders, I honor the regulations against panhandling in those zones where it is prohibited.

    JVW (835f28)

  27. Yes, I’ve had people tell me “Don’t give money to that bum” too.

    But the thing I remember most is a hungry dog in a store’s parking lot just outside Atlanta, Georgia. A guy in a pickup truck stopped and asked me “Is that your dog?” I said “No, I don’t know whose she is”. He came out of his truck and gave her some dog food.

    I should have done it.

    nk (284b49)

  28. nk, regardless of how you may act, there are a lot of people who will not give money to panhandlers because almost all of them are drunks, drug addicts, and other frauds. What this means is that someone who is actually in trouble often can’t get anyone to listen to them. In this way the frauds cause genuine harm to people who are really in trouble. This is why the government should punish the frauds, so that you would have a reasonable expectation that when you see a panhandler, he is really just someone in trouble.

    Doc Rampage (01f543)

  29. When I lived in SD, there were places where you knew you were going to get panhandled any time you went there. I adopted a one line strategy. A soon as I saw one of them coming, I’d walk right toward them and say “Excuse me, can you spare some change?”

    Pablo (99243e)

  30. When I lived in San Diego, the local homeless shelter had a great program. You bought tokens, and could hand the tokens out to homeless folk in place of money. The tokens were good for a meal, or lodging.

    The program was a failure. People wanted money to use as they wished, not lodging or meals. One newspaper editorial railed at the program claiming it removed the homeless folk’s sense of dignity.

    Unlike begging for money, which apparently enhances dignity.

    But the comments above are right on: the moochers keep folks from helping people genuinely in need.

    Eric Blair (d1e694)

  31. Is it just me or is it a coincidence that most of the panhandler stories come from predominantly Liberal locales?
    I have to go find the “Bird feeder’ story….

    paul from fl (47918a)

  32. My only lookout, and the one I am trying to teach my girls, is that some seeming panhandlers are actually criminals who are taking your measure.

    Johny Cash knew such a guy. It’s not his — it’s a cover of an old blues song — but Cash did it best.

    nk (284b49)

  33. Pablo,

    That’s San Diego not South Dakota, right? I see you as a San Diego person.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  34. Frankly, I think the mom should kick the daughter out the door. I know I would be greatly disappoined and disgusted if my daughter was such a lying manipulator and willfully took full advantage of people’s compassion while simultaneously keeping others who really may be in financial dire straits from getting the handout. There are times when good parenting means showing them the front door and letting them figure it out.

    Obviously she’s an industrious girl, she’d land on her feet – and do some necessary growing up, too.

    Dana (8118ae)

  35. DRJ, yep. I once got orders to South Dakota and it was one of the most depressing days of my life. Thankfully, I escaped them.

    I basically spent the 90’s in So Cal.

    Pablo (99243e)

  36. “What this means is that someone who is actually in trouble often can’t get anyone to listen to them. In this way the frauds cause genuine harm to people who are really in trouble.”

    – Doc Rampage

    Doc,

    That’s somewhat circular logic. If everyone gave what they could spare whenever they were asked, without trying to second-guess whether or not the panhandler’s need was genuine, then the people who really needed money would get it every time.

    I’m with nk and JVW. If somebody asks me for a buck and I can spare it, I do. It’s the least I can do as a kid who doesn’t donate to charity through any organized channels (not yet, anyway).

    Leviticus (eb0720)

  37. That’s somewhat circular logic. If everyone gave what they could spare whenever they were asked, without trying to second-guess whether or not the panhandler’s need was genuine, then the people who really needed money would get it every time.

    Very true, Leviticus, but how do you protect yourself against scammers and help those who would use that buck to supply bad habits (drinking and illegal drugs come to mind.)

    What I suggest is this:

    Tell the person that you won’t give away money, but you will buy the person a sandwich and a cup of coffee. That way, the people really in need will get a good meal, the scammers don’t advance on their dishonesty (at east not past the meal) and the liquor and drug abusers aren’t enabled.

    Paul (266a05)

  38. On the other hand, I’m likely to drop a buck or two on the guy who’s sign says “Who am I kidding? I need beer money.”

    I award points for honesty.

    Pablo (99243e)

  39. #39 Pablo:

    I award points for honesty.

    I look for entertainment value.

    EW1(SG) (84e813)

  40. Leviticus, “circular logic” means that somewhere in the argument, I assume my conclusion. I don’t think that’s what you meant and if you did, you didn’t show it.

    Here is the argument in structured form:

    1. the prevalence of swindlers makes people less willing to help all random strangers who ask for help.

    2. some random strangers who ask for help are in genuine need.

    therefore

    3. the presence of swindlers makes people less willing to help some who are in genuine need.

    Your objection seems to be not that either 1 or 2 assumes 3, but rather that 1 ought not to be true. Regardless of whether 1 ought to be true or not (I think it should) the fact is that it is true. So your response is not relevant to either my argument or to the policy conclusion that I draw from it –that the swindlers should be punished.

    Doc Rampage (01f543)

  41. If everyone gave what they could spare whenever they were asked, without trying to second-guess whether or not the panhandler’s need was genuine, then the people who really needed money would get it every time.

    Nonsense. If everyone gave what they could spare whenever they were asked, without trying to second-guess whether or not the panhandler’s need was genuine, then there’d be an order of magnitude more panhandlers out there than there are now.

    Xrlq (62cad4)

  42. Many years ago, when we were living in the San Fernando Valley, there was an old man who panhandled regularly on a corner of Ventura Blvd. There was a magazine stand opposite that we frequented. My wife commented sympathetically to the clerk of the magazine stand about the old man.

    The clerk said “Oh him? That’s his truck there.” and pointed up the street to a current model of Toyota 4Runner in paper plates.

    SPQR (7a788c)

  43. Does anyone posting here actually believe that it would be impossible for any individual to obtain assistance from city, state and/or the federal government if they so wished?

    Apogee (4e1b69)

  44. Not to mention private charities?

    Apogee (4e1b69)

  45. I am a San Francisco resident, and was recently shopping on Haight Street (for all you kids, Haight Street was the epicenter of 1968’s “Summer of Love” that brought us all kinds of counter-culture schtuff we’re still recovering from). At the very corner of Haight & Ashbury were three portly early-20’s guys sitting on duffle bags with earrings and facial piercings. One of them — the fattest of the three — had a facial tattoo indicating he was a “Juggalo.”

    My first thought was “Why don’t you get a job?” but such fools have greatly constricted the type of legal employment they could ever get by the way they present themselves. We all have to make choices in our lives, and guys like that have chosen the Peter Pan life: “I won’t grow up, I’ll never wear a tie,” etc. They don’t want to work in an office or with the general public except on their terms. OK, fine. But don’t come crying to me for my spare change when your rent money was used to poke nickel-sized holes in your ear lobes.

    L.N. Smithee (b17309)

  46. Apogee–I doubt that there’s a government program in existence that could give you food and shelter on a same day basis. But private charities are another thing. Which is why I don’t give to panhandlers. I feel if they are legit, they would be out seeking help from programs instead of just spare change from people waiting for the traffic signal to turn green.

    kishnevi (b4f085)

  47. In re: #6 (Apogee) – Oh please. Soft touches who give money to panhandlers are the only culpable ones in this scenario, and they have earned and delivered their own punishment. Would you have had me busted when, in my youth (MANY years ago) I regularly burned my draft card to impress hippy chicks into engaging in affairs d’coeur? I would go down to Selective Service a couple of times a week for a replacement draft card. Not that the girls were so stupid that often, mind you. Nevertheless, who was the aggrieved party? Possibly the Draft Board, for having to print up replacement cards – stipulated. But did it rise to the level of an arrestable offense? Caveat moron. Or moronette.

    Jimmy don\'t play that (16aeae)


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