I live in South Texas in a city with a reputation for helping people. For example, San Antonio set aside a building on Port San Antonio for refugees from Hurricane Katrina. I know how labor-intensive that effort was, because I took part in it. We essentially stripped an office building of cube furniture and installed 1500 cots in four rooms. I was in the military then, but we were volunteers helping out.
That was back in 2006. Today, San Antonio has another type of persons who need help. These people are panhandlers. Panhandling in this city has reached epidemic proportions. Because San Antonio has a serious inferiority complex, you won’t hear about the panhandling epidemic on the local news. Here, never is heard a discouraging word, but just about anyone with a car knows panhandling is rampant here.
A regular citizen can be confronted with panhandling whenever they go in public, especially if its a halfway decent area of town. While panhandling at highway intersections is commonplace, shopping center parking lots are the “new normal.” I’ve been accosted in parking lots by the “family in need”, needing a few dollars to help them out … complete with children sitting in a minivan. That’s happened at least five times, once by the same woman in different parking lots. I’ve also been asked by the dude down on his luck, who needed a few bucks for a hotel room, when it’s about to pour down outside. The panhandler assumes you have cash. In the few seconds you have available, you have to decide if you’re going to open your wallet, give someone cash and expose your life to them, or you’re going to refuse them.
At church, we had a person do a skit as a homeless person. Many people felt for the homeless person. I did as well. But there’s a part of me — a large part — that believes almost all panhandlers are faking it. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be panhandling. I can’t even recall a situation where I’ve given money to panhandlers. Here, panhandlers are successful because of San Antonio’s nature, which is to help people enduring a non-positive situation. As for myself, I believe the best way to contribute to those in a difficult situation is to contribute with time and money to shelters. That in my opinion, is doing God’s work.
I mentioned how we treat each other. Today, I had a man from a company come by to do some work. He was working in the attic, which he does all day long. It’s still ridiculously hot here. I got the man a glass of ice water. Here it is, 5 PM and he chugs it down. He says to me:
Thank you. That’s the first glass of water I’ve gotten today
I wondered if this San Antonio generosity is misplaced. Here, a person is doing work for me. All I did was get him a glass of water, as human decency. People couldn’t even do that because “he’s getting paid.” Someone stands on a corner and begs you for money and people give it to them because they appear to be in a bad situation. As far as you know, that person is doing better than you are. From what I’ve seen, they are doing better.
This cemented my opinion of panhandlers: I watched one do his thing for a couple of hours. Stood in the intersection near a major highway and a shopping center. Limped around from an alleged “injury.” When he was done panhandling, he went over to a “Corner Store” (Valero). Then he got into his late model Toyota Camry parked by the store, and drove away.
I was furious. I wondered how many people had given that dude money based on the fact he appeared “injured?” He’s probably using it for car payments! I’ve seen people in really bad shape. I hate the fact there are kids hungry in this country. Panhandling isn’t the way to resolve it.