Monday, February 26, 2007

I got played by a pan handler - Poverty in NYC

I usually give to those how ask if I have small bills in my pocket. If not I say I am sorry I don’t have anything right now but good luck today. I also am willing to buy someone dinner every once in a while. I do this because I read a book once that told me it is a good thing to do. Also because of a presentation I saw once called The Faces of Homelessness from the National Coalition for the Homeless.

There are countless studies out there that say homeless folks are unseen, so I go out of my way to say hello and be polite. Like I said, I give when I have.

But I got played.

On my way home Friday a well dressed older man asked, “Can I get a dollar for the train? I am just trying to get home.”

He asked for one, so I gave him one...

He then said “just two more and I am there.”

I expected him and another person to get in the subway with me. But I heard him continue his lines.

I was played. But what should I expect?

All around us we are hit by false advertisements:
Eat all you want, stay thin!
Buy this cream look 10 years younger!
Wear these shoes have mad game!

So why am I surprised when a man asking for money on the street will lie to me?

I suppose I hope those in need would be honest when asking me for some of my money. But that is the nature of the economy we have created and continue foster. We all wonder why people don’t just get a job. It would be naive to say all progressives or liberal would be willing to stand up for those who don’t work and pay the way to for there homelessness.

It would not only be naive it would be wrong. Maimonides taught that to give a person a lone or help with a business deal to allow an individual to be self sufficient is the highest level of Tzedakah. Additionally it is fair to say that most if not all homeless folks don’t want to be homeless and don’t want to take handouts.

This week I am going to dedicate to poverty in New York City. While I know there isn’t anyone all that interested in what I have to say, it will make me think differently about the fact that I am wearing a suit and tie to work, sleeping in a warm bed and eat three meals a day (if not more, but I am not staying thin).


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine used to carry McDonalds Bucks to give away instead of money. Neat idea.

What makes it difficult is that there are not just people in need that beg on the street. There are also people out there who choose it as a lifestyle because begging can actually be a decent source of income in a large city, and they couldn't otherwise hold a job or "fit in" in our society for a number of reasons.

So how do you determine who is truly in need from those that may not be? Well, I guess you can't. But I feel much better when I donate/volunteer at local food banks/soup kitchens/habitat for humanity than simply handing out money to strangers.

Liberal Jew said...


I feel better when I work in those locations as well. It is however not always easy to find the time to make a deep impact. So it does seem that from time to time giving a few bucks is needed.

I suppose that by not asking what the need is you are accepting that folks need what they ask for. I am not going to judge or assess their situation. It is bad, whatever it is, it is bad.

DK said...

There's an idiot who comes to my neighborhood every couple of years and claims he lost his fanny pack. I have threatened him repeatedly that I will call the cops if I see him making such a claim again.

When you are my size and look like I do, you get some nasty experiences from panhandlers. I have been called many names over the years for not giving them money, threatened, and in earlier years, was slapped.

Just because someone is crazy doesn't mean they are nice. Panhandlers are usually predators in NY and DC, and should be treated accordingly and booted firmly off the mass transit system. It should have the same laws and enforcement as panhandling in front of an ATM, at least if they are not stationary. But to be fair, I have found panhandlers are quite generous about their racial and religious prejudices when you don't give them money.

I wrote about one experience here, I hope you like it. It may not be lliberal enough for you, but it will be pissed off enough:

Liberal Jew said...


I read it and feel you. I disagree but I am not that pissed. People who are crazy are crazy and act that way. It is another problem with our social services in this country.

But hey, what ever you want; ship em’ out so they are someone else’s problem.

Annie said...

POLJ- there is a reason that it is illegal to give on the subway. I actually was once firmly chastised by a union (he was wearing a t-shirt) carpenter who said that I am only encouraging the guy to beg more.

I now no longer give on the subways because it makes me very uncomfortable, I feel trapped in the car with them. Also, as a young woman I dislike to take out my wallet/open my purse in public, and never at night.

Liberal Jew said...

Annie- I am not saying to give on a subway. I am simply saying there is a problem that is rarely addressed.

I got played outside of the subway...not yet in the car. I usally keep a few dollars in my pocket to give away if asked. I never take out my wallet, even though I pretty big (for a Jew) guy.