Panhandling has become a social norm. It’s something you see so often, you generally don’t give it a second thought. But have you ever wondered why some panhandlers stay “broke”?
You’ve seen the signs that say, “Broke and hungry. Please help.” Yes, some panhandling incomes are legitimately minimal, and those people have real, insurmountable situations. Then, there are those panhandling income makers who have on fresh pairs of Jordans, clean clothes, brand new signs and markers, and umbrellas attached to chairs.
If people are generous enough to give to anyone with a sign, why would such people want jobs when panhandling is a “job” in itself? This income stream seemingly trumps the wage someone would receive from working regular 9-5 jobs, almost quadruple-fold. According to KCRA-3 News, there are self-proclaimed professional panhandlers who can accumulate $182 per hour.
While panhandling has a lot of grey areas in the few places it’s illegal, it’s mostly just a slap on the wrist. The source reports that a particular panhandling family in Modesto, California, only receives a ticket and is released to continue similar income-generating activities. What’s a $50 fine for a few hours of “work”?
In essence, panhandling is a constitutionally-protected activity and — in many cases — isn’t of police priority, as notes the Center for Problem-Oriented Policy. Unfortunately, the act of panhandling plays on people’s emotions and their willingness to give or not be seen as an inconsiderate individual. Generosity (positive) and public perception (negative) are the main influencers in panhandling success.
However, everyone doesn’t stand for it. Just take a look at the following Facebook post of Mike Pothoff. He offered these two panhandling men jobs, and they swiftly declined.
According to Fox-31 Denver, Mike mentioned that he sees the panhandling young men often, “several times a week.” As a business owner, he saw an opportunity to give two guys — who were supposedly down on their luck — a chance to make some cash. Little did he know that by panhandling, they were already making serious cash just by asking for it. They wanted nothing to do with his proposal. Mike told the news source as follows.
“I said, ‘You’re hired,’ and they said, ‘We’re not from around here.’ I said, ‘Well, you’re here,’ and then they just smirked and turned around.”
The same news source titled Mike’s “exposing” as “shaming.” Shaming is socially recognized as a derogatory term. Is it shaming when you’re forewarning people about impending con activity? This would be close to saying that people who call 911 to report crime are shaming criminals by “snitching.”
If these people were panhandling out of necessity, that’d be another story. Mike knows that there are real people who get caught in hard-time situations and are forced into panhandling. He told the source that he doesn’t have a problem with panhandlers. The thing is this: he wants to assure that they’re people who actually need the help. He told the source as follows.
“There’s a lot of women and kids that aren’t going to have a lot for Christmas – might not have anything – and it upsets me that we have younger kids, or people who can work, that are doing that. If they’re going to stand out there and hold a sign and ask for money and say they’re homeless, I can hold a sign out there saying I offered these guys a job, don’t give them money.”
According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policy, panhandling and homeless people aren’t the same. The source says, “Many studies have found that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandle, and only a small percentage of panhandlers are homeless.”
However, from initial evaluation, it’s difficult to distinguish between who needs help and who’s just trying to con you. According to the news source, the aforementioned family — the one generating a panhandling income of $182 per hour — “has ruined it for the people who really do need assistance” in that area. But it’s similar in other areas of the United States as well.
OKC City Council votes to restrict panhandling with ordinance https://t.co/6RMGbZ0f9G pic.twitter.com/byAlIBH5Ys
— KOCO-5 Oklahoma City (@koconews) December 9, 2015
Panhandlers who stay around the same area with the same “need gas money” signs are obviously not in need, making it hard for someone who’s genuinely out of gas and sitting beside the road. How does one need gas money everyday, in the same area, at the same time of day?
It’s similar to what Mike Pothoff said about the two panhandling young men. It’s illogical to think people won’t recognize if you appear in the same area with the same situational sign. A smirk and a dismal is what these con-artist panhandlers might give you, if you attempt to give anything other than money.
However, as for the true homeless, you can tell that their panhandling efforts are sincere. For those who are down on their luck, it takes a lot of courage to ask a total stranger for a helping hand, and often times, they’ll seem either incredibly meek or too desperate. Yet, as it concerns those who think of it as just a business, it’s just a numbers game. You’d be surprised by what you’d witness after returning to your vehicle and watching a panhandling individual make his or her income. There’s no shame in his or her approach. “Leave no stone unturned,” basically.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to share in the comments section.
[Photo by David Zalubowski/AP Images]