Panhandlers are all over the city of Philadelphia. There is a wide range of approaches they use but one thing is for certain, their goal is to get your money. I’ve recently encountered two situations which inspired this post. I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for money if it’s done appropriately. Meaning that the person is polite and respects the fact that it’s acceptable that he leave this one sided transaction with nothing. This of course isn’t always the case because beggers tend to be 1) Desperate and 2) On Drugs. This creates an uneasy, volatile situation every time you are approached. Here are 2 examples of recent time that I’ve run into.
I went to Best Buy on Delaware Ave and as I got out of my car and walked to the entrance, a dirty, hooded white man walked out of the shadows and said, “excuse me, do you see the PPA (Phila Parking Authority) over there? I’ve been gathering pennies and I’d really like to get a $.49 cheeseburger at Wendy’s.” This guy’s approach almost got me. The fact that he was gathering pennies pretty much demoted him to the lowest rung of begging possible. Gathering pennies! And all for a cheeseburger. I felt bad for this guy if it was true. Now the fact that he wanted to meet me by the lurking shadows of the PPA didn’t make me feel to easy but I still felt a sense of empathy for a dire situation. Alas, as I came out of the store, he wasn’t there anymore and I left with all my pennies.
The 2nd encounter was a much different approach. I was picking up some Chinese food at the Plaza Pizza, well, plaza, and a man in street clothes called out from across the walking area, “Hey, big guy.” I saw him approaching and quickly turned my back to him and starting walking the other direction. He again called out, “Hey, big guy.” I turned around in case he was shot in the gut or something and this was an emergency. He said, “I need 50 cents for bus money.” I walked away with no more said. My first reaction to his request of “big guy” was confrontational. It’s like he’s sizing me up. I knew what was coming so I was hoping to ignore the situation but his persistence was also noted. Notice his request of 50 cents is 50x more than the other guy. My chance of giving this guy money was 0%.
I give money to one beggar and it’s because I’ve known him for a long time. He’s genuinely a nice guy and doesn’t spaz if I don’t give him any money. He rarely asks but always accepts. I understand the thought behind begging but generally you get to that point by making bad decisions. I’m sure it’s not always the case but there are consequences to bad decisions and bailing people out isn’t smart. Tell that to the government.