There’s been an alarming uptick in the number of street beggars around lately, especially at major intersections.
A typical scene goes like this. The panhandler hoists a cardboard sign desperately pleading for help. He (or increasingly — she) approaches the driver’s window of cars waiting at red lights. Once traffic comes to a stop, the beggar exits curbside, walks into the street, and begins parading between rows of cars, constantly on the prowl for kindhearted drivers willing to fork over a buck or two, or some loose pocket change.
These exchanges seem innocent enough. However, they’re also troubling for a few reasons.
First, there seems to be more beggars now than ever before — particularly working Las Vegas street corners. I lack data to prove this. It’s just a casual observation based on my daily routine and what I’ve observed around town. Sometimes, multiple beggars work the same intersection.
I once (mistakenly) thought that panhandling was a reflection of the economy. Boom economy = less beggars. Bad economy = more beggars. But the unemployment rate and general economic conditions don’t seem to impact the numbers of panhandlers and frequency of begging. Otherwise, Flint (Michigan) would be the begging capital of America. Fact is, you’re more likely to see beggars working the street corners of affluent areas of town. Here in Las Vegas, lots more panhandling goes on in Summerlin and Green Valley (richer areas) than the poor sections of town. I suppose beggars are simply flocking to where the money is.
A far bigger concern is wondering how many of these beggars are, in fact, who they claim to be. Moreover, will the cash handout go towards food or be used to buy drugs or alcohol, usually the two vices that created homelessness in the first place? I suspect this fear is what makes most of us reluctant to give money to someone to claims to be in dire need. We don’t want our generosity abused. What’s the point of giving money, if it goes to feed the cycle of self-destruction? [Footnote 1]
Let’s try and establish some common agreement. I think most of us really want to help the less fortunate. If someone is so destitute that they’re forced to beg for a meal, then common human decency demands that we try and help them, even if they contributed to their own misfortune from abusing drugs or alcohol. No one (anywhere) should starve. Period. No one wants to see bodies collapsing in the streets from hunger and thirst, no matter what the contributing circumstances.Read More