Monday, April 6, 2009

A Panhandler Speaks

Quick...without thinking, what image comes into your head when you think of "homeless people"? Is it the guy who was injured (without insurance), lost his job and then his home, and ended up on the streets? Or perhaps the Veteran who returned from Iraq with PTSD and couldn't easily rejoin society? Or maybe the mother of two who lost her rental house because the owner was foreclosed upon?

There are a lot of people who end up homeless for these reasons, but it's more likely that your first thought was about the homeless people you probably encounter every day: panhandlers. The people on the street or at the off-ramp, holding a sign and asking for money. There have been a lot of articles about panhandlers (here's one), usually focusing on the few(?) who actually make money doing it, or who otherwise lie about their need or what they plan to do with the money you give them. In the video below (from, you'll see another side of the story:

Tony from invisible people on Vimeo.

Are some panhandlers less "together" than the person in this video? Do some take your money and feed a drug or alcohol addiction? Absolutely. But for anyone who thinks that standing at the off-ramp with a sign begging for money is a desirable lifestyle, or that everyone at the off-ramp is simply using the money to buy drugs or alcohol, take a look at this video. Most people have the same basic desires: a place to live, a job, and something that brings meaning to their life. Sometimes, people do what they have to do to survive.

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