“What it’s worth”

How do beggars choose whom they approach?5550726_f1024
Is it scattergun ie try everybody and hope somebody responds?
Is it non-verbal targeting (psychologists believe that the majority of our communications are non-verbal and no less effective for that) so – in this case – does the beggar “recognise” or “see” whom to target?
I pass four or five regulars who whine and croon supplication without pause for breath.  This must work on somebody but the sound drives me past.
And reporting them doesn’t work – the police do not move them on – presumably because there is nowhere to move them on to.

When I worked I decided on a weekly amount to give.  I thought I had luck and the people I gave to needed a bit.  When work dried up and my budget grew tighter, I made decisions.
In my book it is not generous to give and then regret it.  I give to one person regularly which may be sentimental but I prefer to donate to a familiar face.  And I give my biggest annual contribution to the Salvation Army, frederick-duncan-salvation-army-poster-1919the quality of whose work is beyond question.   In between, there are casual transactions I would be hard pressed to explain.  I have given when I am strapped and not when I have money so there is obviously more to it than just giving or not giving.

I cannot forget the young man who rose from his sitting position and embraced me in the Tottenham Court Road. the-warm-hug-with-the-huge-tiger-ipad-wallpaper-ilikewallpaper_com Nor the young woman I stopped and talked to because she was crying.  While another young man hailed me, grinning, with
“Would you give me £20?”
“No I said, smiling back.  “I wouldn’t.”
“Would you give me £20 and let me give you back £7?”
I smiled and shook my head.
“Would you give me £10?”
“Hang on a minute” I said.  “I am working something out.”   I ducked into a doorway and extracted a fiver.
“Would you take this on account?” I asked.
“Yes” he said, the charmer.
I got at least as much out of that transaction as he did.

I’ve just read Robyn Davidson’s second book Desert Places in which she travels with a sub-caste gipsy group in India.  In those circumstances, giving money is as much a part of the culture as endless cups of tea.  She writes about being white and privileged – what her companions call a “phoren” – where it is presumed that she is wealthy and has bottomless resource.  We may acquire the manners to give gracefully in a culture other than our own – “learn” is the operative word – so I take my hat off to a talented writer unafraid to write about the difference between the money it is presumed you will give and being dunned into giving it.

If I want to lessen the chances of an approach for money, it seems I must not wear a scarf or carry a handbag.  I don’t’ know where jewellery fits in but a square wrapped round my neck, silk or other, and any kind of handbag denotes money – on me, anyway.
I do not do well being panhandled.  If it isn’t the already mentioned whine, it is bullying to induce guilt and I am not good at guilt.
A street drunk cursed me when I refused him and I said “And the same to you.”
And when I held up my hand to stop a woman approaching me with a patter I had just heard her use on somebody else, she exclaimed indignantly “I haven’t said anything to you yet!”
“Good” I said.  “Don’t.”

And then there is institutionalised begging without which, we are assured, the charities would suffer.,   I have been doorstopped four times by a well known animal charity for £8 a month which isn’t much when you consider the tidal wave of dumped animals and the horror of dealing with their death with monotonous frequency.
I had to spell out to the representative of an environmental charity that if I had £12 spare, there is nobody I’d rather give it to – but he tried over and over to pressure me.
There is a man who has been moved on several times, to pastures greener, who returns with his clipboard and his plea “for those less fortunate than yourself”, starting I fear with him.   And the running appeal on the same corner, week in, week out honestly for the last year,, holding out a plastic bucket for handicapped children.
And 48 hours ago a man asked me for 50 pence.   I wonder what he’d get for it – or is it just to shame you into giving more?
In these days of on-line publishing, I await the beggars’ handbook.  imgres1

5 responses to ““What it’s worth”

  1. Anna
    I used to love you on the radio so am happy to read your no nonsense approach to a variety of subjects. Keep posting.

  2. Well said Anna, a very thoughtful piece, but downright honestly written. I give to the heart foundation- and I donate to the salvation army chap, if I spot him on our high street. But if I spot a clipboard coming my way, it’s thanks- but no thanks!…Neil, Arbroath..

  3. Thanks for another great post. It is difficult to know who is genuine. Some homeless people in my area have been given help but won’t help themselves.

    I do what I can manage by supporting an animal charity because they can’t speak for themselves and voluntary work once or twice a week. Most people don’t mind giving but we’re asked to give all the time. For years I couldn’t go shopping without being accosted by salespeople, people begging and market research. There’s hardly any shops now which has stopped them.

  4. Some of that sounds very harsh especially to someone who has no roof, no warmth , no box to shelter them from the harsh world- i can imagine what that must be like And the word handicapped is deemed very offensive nowadays.

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