The Unfair Begging for Money Among Panhandlers

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In our daily lives, we often don’t pay attention to the people around us because we are always busy in our own lives. There are thousands of people in New York who are homeless and must beg to survive. The number of people panhandling has increased immensely. However, some argue that panhandlers spend the money earn on drugs and other things. They believe that panhandlers should save up the extra money they receive and spend it on necessary things such as hygiene, healthy food, and housing. They should look for jobs that they are capable of instead of begging. Studies have shown that even in the state of being homeless, people prioritize drugs over a comfortable and peaceful lifestyle. New York is an extremely diverse state with very different people. It’s a commonplace to see numerous panhandlers in our everyday lives; on the streets, on the subway, or outside a building, we see them almost everywhere. Some mention their hardships and tragedies to gain the attention of passersby while some sit holding a board asking for money. People debate whether they should give panhandlers money. Numerous sources state that the money they earn throughout the day is usually spent on drugs.

On a Wednesday afternoon, I went to 15th street and Park Ave. and observed a panhandler. He was a man of about 6 feet height dressed in ragged clothes. He had a lot of facial hair and it was clear that he didn’t shave for months. The dirt in his nails and his appearance was a clear proof that he hasn’t been taking care of his hygiene. The panhandler also had bloodshot eyes and he wasn’t walking properly. There were a lot of people around, all walking faster and minding their own business. As I observed the panhandler, I noticed a pattern in his behavior. He crossed a street and begged for money and when the pedestrian signal came on, he came back to where he first was and started to beg again. The man went back and forth multiple times for about 25 minutes and after that, he was joined by a companion. Another man who also appeared as a panhandler came up to him and started talking to him. They went back to begging together following the pattern of going back and forth the street, asking for money. There were a lot of people there and it was no wonder they chose to stay in that place. There were multiple stores in the area and the place was crowded. After about 15 minutes, one of the panhandlers left and moments later came back with a box of cigarettes and 2 cans in a bag of what appeared to be beer. He lit a cigarette and gave one to his partner. They sat down on the ground beside a building and started smoking and drinking. I overheard the first panhandler declare out loud, “Let’s go get food!” however, the other neglected him and went back to paying attention to his cigarette. It was starting to get dark and soon the number of people on the street decreased little by little. The two men got up after drinking beer and smoking two cigarettes and left the place.

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The other person stayed there till his cigarette got finish. Then he went to a store and came back to same place with holding a card board. He wrote “I’m Homeless and starving, help me. God Bless You!”. He left the place and started to beg from drivers who were standing on red lights but surprisingly no one was paying attention to him. He went back to sidewalk and started ask money from pedestrians. Some pedestrians helped him with some snacks but he was not looking comfortable with those snacks. He didn’t eat any of them even didn’t take sip of water which a pedestrian gave to him. He spend almost 10-15 minutes by sitting on the ground then again he decided to cross the road and beg money from drivers, this time some drivers gave him some money and he put that inside his jacket instead of the cup he was holding. This made me surprised because why he took money from cup and put jacket? Then I had many questions in my head that how much money he has in his jacket because if someone will see his empty cup then the person maybe will give him some money; otherwise If he keep money in the cup then might people will think that he already has money then why he needs more. These things were going in my mind then suddenly he got hit by a car because he was crossing the road on the red light. Driver came out the car and had some conversation with the panhandler, when driver thought he is feeling good, he left because he did not got hit badly. Then he went back to his place where he was sitting and open his bag to get cigarette. He started again begging from the pedestrians.

This experience of observing the panhandler is very similar to what I read in Intimate Apartheid: Ethnic dimensions of habitus among homeless heroin injectors by Bourgois and Schonberg. The panhandlers earned money the whole day and at the end, bought cigarettes and beer with it instead of buying healthy food that would provide them with good nutrients. Panhandlers struggle financially and provide for themselves through panhandling. However, drug addiction forces them to follow a lifestyle that keeps them from becoming stable. It indicates, “ is an effective, low-risk way for them to support their heroin and almost all of them in our network mobilized a significant portion of their income in that manner.” (Bourgois and Schonberg, 23). The panhandlers have to work hard every day to get money, going around places and asking people for money. Some of them end up using that money on meaningless things whereas struggle to make a living and improve their financial status.

When I went back to that place after two days to observe him, he was still there with same clothes and doing same thing which he was doing earlier. Which made me think that if he got money from people then where he spent that money because the all he got he spend on drugs instead to get good food. It made me surprised because if he has that much money then why does not get some clothes to keep him warm during this weather. He could also go to homeless shelter where he could get shower and make himself clean, but he did not do like that. He just got money put in his pocket and some of that spent on drugs. Which could make him sick in future.

Conclusively, panhandlers got used to with begging because they feel it easy source to earn money. They can fulfill their needs from this money that’s the reason they don’t want to be employee somewhere because I think they don’t have future in their lives. They just rely on drugs to keep themselves alive, but it is not good way to spend life because if you are physically fit then you should do work somewhere. If the number of panhandlers keep increasing, then it will cause troubles for society in the shape of diseases.

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