Gut Rumbles

December 20, 2003

will work for food

I saw one of those con-men on the street near Oglethorpe Mall one day when I was living in southside Savannah. He was holding the sign, "WILL WORK FOR FOOD" and I pulled over. He walked up to my car. I was not surprised by what happened next.

"I need my grass cut," I said. "I'll feed you a steak dinner if you'll do that for me, and you can use my lawn mower and my gas. When you're finished with the job and finished with your meal, I'll drive you anywhere you want to go."

"Um... could you, like, spare a couple of dollars?" he replied.

"WHAT? I thought you're standing here offering to work for food. I'm offering you food to do a job. Isn't that what your sign says?"

"Yeah, man... but I really could use a couple of dollars. I've got a wife and kids." He put an especially pitiful-looking expression on his face.

"Okay," I said. "Tell me where your wife and kids are and I'll feed them ALL, right after you cut my grass. I'll even let you take the leftover food with you so the young'uns will have something to eat tomorrow."

"Can't you just spare a couple of bucks? That's all I'm asking. A couple of bucks."

I didn't give the panhandling bastard a dime. He didn't want to work for food. He was making a pretty fair income begging on the side of the road. Why the fuck should HE work? He had plenty of people such as the dickhead I linked below GIVING him money and goods for doing nothing except appearing pitiful.

The Savannah police arrested the guy for some minor offense a week or so later and the truth came out. He was fleecing compassionate people for almost $500 per week running his con and he NEVER WORKED FOR FOOD.

My aching ass. Some people really do fall off turnip trucks every day.


I've always been afraid of somehow winding up as a bagwoman in the streets. Some people fear public speaking. I fear tryin' to roll my books along in a stolen shopping cart. I thought I was alone in my belief until a very successful woman older than I am told me seriously that she was always afraid of winding up on the street. (What the hell did SHE have to fear? She's divorced from 5 or so successful men and drawin' money from ALL of them, PLUS working. I only got the one husband that I'm MARRIED to, for Christ sake. I am definitely an underachiever. But I digress.)

Perhaps those of us that give money are trying to placate the powers that be that we never end up in similar circumstances. Perhaps we give in the "what goes around, comes around" hope that someday when we are needy, a benevolent stranger will assist. (I have always helpfully asked what 1040 form they will be filling out, told them the proper line to include the money in, and told them I'd be checking it to see if they filled it out correctly. And, of course, you should always ask for a receipt.)

But for myself, I don't know if I can count on the benificence of strangers. My sign will say "will cook porkchops with onion and beer gravy with greens and rice and cornbread that will make you slap your mama and all I ask in return is for a share of the meal." Dang. Either I'll have to be carryin' a billboard or I'm going to have to condense it some.

Posted by: SwampWoman on December 20, 2003 09:03 AM

Yeah, i see them in Atlanta where I work every day. I never give em a dime. I use the pigeon theory. If you stop feeding them they will eventually go away and find another place to gather and shit.

Posted by: Grey Biker on December 20, 2003 09:04 AM

I got taken in like that once several years ago. I was in lower Manhattan on a Saturday afternoon. I'd had to go into the office to catch up on some work and I was on my way home. I got to the entrance to the subway and there was this middle aged guy standing there. He was neat, reasonably well dressed and didn't look like he had missed many meals. He stopped me and said he'd lost his wallet and needed a couple of bucks for PATH fare home to NJ. I took a long hard look at him and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. So, I gave him a coule of bucks and went on my way feeling reasonably good about having helped out, or so I thought.

Exactly one week later I was on my way home again and guess who was there at the subway entrance again. Yup, there he was, laying the same story on some young woman. I walked up and asked him if he was still waiting for a train to NJ and wasn't it odd that they were so few and far between. I then turned to the woman who had seemed to be wavering about whether to believe him or not until I walked up and then I told her what had happened the week before. She just gave him a look and then went on her way as I did. The guy was not very happy. Asshole.

I'm a lot slower to give anyone the bnefit of the doubt these days, mainly because of that.

Posted by: Jonathan on December 20, 2003 09:07 AM

I like the guys that have the "Get me drunk" sign.

Posted by: "Ralphy" on December 20, 2003 09:47 AM

I agree w. Ralphy.

Whenever I am in NYC, I will throw a few quarters to the guys who have the "Need money for beer. At least I ain't lying" signs. Let them get their drink on. The more they drink, the sooner they die and the faster we are rid of them.

That said, there truly are some REAL homeless people. When I was growing up, there was a woman in our town (middle class burb in NJ) who lived with 2 kids in her station wagon. Her scumbag husband used to beat the shit out of her so badly that she needed hospitalization a few times.

Ultimately, he was jailed for something else. The house was foreclosed. This forced her into the streets.

When the local community heard of her story, it rallied to her aid. Temporary shelter was provided for her and her kids. Donations bought them new clothes and food. She was given a job at a local retail outlet. Within a few months, she had enough money to rent an apt. in town.

I left the town 6 years after her stint in the station wagon. She had moved up to asst. manager at the store and lived in the same apt. She and her kids seemed well adjusted and happy.

Moral of the story: The people will rally and help those who truly need it. The govt. will "help" anyone who holds out their hand.

Posted by: rightisright on December 20, 2003 10:02 AM

About 1988, I saw a Hunk. I mean a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed handsome as can be, sexy with muscles in the right places and a tight six-pack HUNK on the side of the road with a will work for food sign.

I seriously thought about stopping and taking him home with me to "work" for food. If he "worked" out well, I'd have considered keeping him in relative comfort for a while, well-fed of course.

Posted by: Ms Anna on December 20, 2003 10:23 AM

Grey Biker, you're so right. I used to give them money, but I stopped after I saw one of them head into a liquor store with my $20.

Posted by: Renee on December 20, 2003 10:33 AM

I absolutely detest the sick bastards to take advantage of people by standing around with one of those 'will work for food' signs, or 'got robbed, need money to get home' signs, or any of the other variations. There's one intersection in town here that always has three or four people, usually with signs in the same writing, begging for work for food. I'll wager anyone that not a one of them is actually homeless or needs food.

However, I had a friend last year who worked at a Cracker Barrel. She usually worked closing, and at the end of the day, they'd throw away all the leftover biscuits. She'd take some of them, and give most of them to this homeless guy she'd usually see on her way home. He was so grateful for the food that the first few times, he cried.

My mother has occasionally offered work to people with signs. Some of them have asked for money instead, but others accepted the work, did an admirable job, and either did or didn't accept her advice: there's a place in town that's kinda like a temp agency for labor positions. They'll take most anyone who can do work, and you can take an option to get paid everyday, at least at first.

One guy also came up to ask her if she had any spare change, so he could get coffee. You can tell the difference between someone who's just taking advantage of you, and someone who's actually cold and hungry. She didn't have any change--her last dime had just gone into the parking meter--but she went into a nearby resturant. Someone happened to be returning their food because they accidently got the wrong order. So instead of buying him a cup of coffee, so got the folks at the resturant (who knew her as a regular) to give her the returned food. When she handed it to him, he told her that no one ever gave him anything that was hot, and all he'd wanted was coffee. He cried, too.

I never give money to anyone. But I'll offer real help. And the people who need it are always grateful.

Posted by: Veryalda Relisys on December 20, 2003 10:35 AM

A friend of mine carries a case of soup in his truck. He gives a can or two to anyone who says they need a couple bucks for food.

Posted by: Larry on December 20, 2003 11:49 AM

I've worked in homeless shelters and similar environments. A common thread in homelessness is mental illness, a lot of homeless people are that way because they can't or don't take their meds, or they improperly self-medicate. Those people I genuinely feel for. Their own brain chemistry has betrayed them, and there's not a lot anyone can do. The idiots selling stolen tube socks under I-55 on Cicero? fuck 'em.

Posted by: mark on December 20, 2003 11:49 AM

While visiting my brother in Phoenix a few years back we went to a mall to do some shopping. We had stops to make on opposite ends of the mall, so my bro' let me off on one end and drove around to park on the other. On my way in there was one of these panhandlers with his sign asking people for money. After passing while doing my best to ignore him the mall security people came out and ran him off. Interesting thing is that after I met up with my brother to leave, we saw the same panhandler get into a 25 ft. motor home and drive away. I have to wonder how often that sort of thing happens. Probably a lot more than people realize.

Posted by: Don on December 20, 2003 12:03 PM



Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim on December 20, 2003 12:04 PM

What about those scammers who accost you at red lights with large jars which you feel coerced to add to by your own self-consciousness and wish to be left alone. They sometimes claim they are collecting for Father "Dan's" mission to aid victims of domestic violence, and of course homeless children. I look directly at them, into their eyes, with a cold menacing stare and my head shaking "No, you asshole", my .357 at my side.

Posted by: Ga-ne-sha on December 20, 2003 12:11 PM

Our US Marine Corps had to take the Toys for Tots operation away from our salvation army because the people who were working it, stole everything.

I don't see many beggars around here, but sometimes I come across poor lonely old people hanging out at fast food restaurants trying to stay warm. IF they look like veterans I'll give the cashier money and buy them a meal.

I have been volunteering "stand-downs" that provide assistance to homeless veteran's so I think I know what a Vet looks like. Sadly, we find fraud with this too.

After 911 people were making fake death certificates and scamming everything they could in NY

I'll give anyone the last dollar I have, if they need it more than I do, but the frauds and scammers make it a tough decision.

LMAOROTF I also have had paranoid thoughts about winding up homeless bagwoman on the street, but if they're making +$500 a week for holding a sign, maybe I'm the fool and I should join them.

I've worked a lot harder for a lot less.

Posted by: SASSY on December 20, 2003 01:36 PM

I was getting into my car at a store a while back and a really awful looking old guy asked me if I could spare a few dollars because he hadn't eaten. I said, "I won't give you any money, but if you're hungry like you say, meet me at that hot dog stand over there." I drove over and told the clerk, "See that old guy walking over here? Give him anything he wants." He didn't cry or anything, but he really wolfed down a hot dog and a plate of beans.

Posted by: Ernie G on December 20, 2003 02:00 PM

I lived in Phoenix about 8 years ago, and it seemed you couldn't get on or get off the freeway without someone accosting you for money at the ramp. Ofthen there were kids, too, standing out there in the summer time with their parents.

And then one day, a couple got busted for using another homeless couple's kids as part of the freeway pity party. The kids were out in the sun all day in July, with no sunscreen, no water, just as props to get more money.

I will give someone money if they give me something. I've bought a joke for a buck, heard a story for one of my cheeseburgers, gotten a cartoon of myself for $10.

Where i live now, the human serviices/welfare department is across the street from Walmart. ABout every other week, there's someone standing at the exit to the walmart parking lot scrounging for money. I'll never understand why they aren't across the street filling out paperwork.

Back in Phoenix, there was a month or so while i was waiting for a paycheck that i had zero money, and i had gone to a food bank that wasn't open when it said it was. I stood outside that church and scowled at it for 20 minutes, wondering what i was going to do, and a guy asked if i needed anything. I just said, "I'm hungry", and he took me over to Circle-K and got me some milk, mac n cheese, butter, bread, peanut butter and a hot dog, as well as a bottle of OJ. I hope that guy had fantastic things happen to him.

One of my neighbors in a cheesy motel/apartment complex, was a professional beggar. that asshole brought in $700 a month.

Posted by: pril on December 20, 2003 02:39 PM

Didn't Conan Doyle write a Sherlock story about a guy who could more money by begging than by working in his trade?

I betcha if I stood on the street holding up a "Will Work for Money" sign, I'd get arrested toute suite.

Posted by: Justthisguy on December 20, 2003 04:44 PM

I saw a man accompanied by a pregnant woman standing on a corner with a "will work for food sign". I went to the closest fast food place and bought burgers with extra meat and double cheese. (I'm an OB nurse and we all know those pregnant ladies need protein and calcium!) I bought super-sized drinks and an extra milkshake for her since it was 100 degrees that day. (Dehydration is a bad thing for a pregnant lady.) I expected them to be thrilled with such a large meal. No, they threw the bags of food on the ground and fussed at me because what they really wanted was MONEY! It was a looooooong time before I ever gave to a "needy" one again. And I got burned again but that is another story..........Just DAMN!

Posted by: Robin on December 20, 2003 06:41 PM

I believe the Sherlock Holmes story in question was "The Man With the Twisted Lip." The more things change... There was another one, about contemporary drug use, whose title I forget. They had opium dens, we have crack houses and shooting (as in heroin) galleries.

Posted by: Andrea Harris on December 21, 2003 12:11 AM

You've hit on the solution to the "homeless problem". If they are askng for money, and refuse food or shelter, they should be arrested and/or run out of town. The more people that use your method, the less money they can scam, and will have to change careers.

Posted by: Phil Winsor on December 21, 2003 09:17 AM

My favorite homeless-person sign, from Haight-Ashbury:

"Why Lie? We Want Beer!"

I think I gave them a little b/c their sign made me laugh.

Posted by: pennywit on December 23, 2003 12:05 PM

I have a simple rule... if they are doing something that is valuable to me, I am glad to give them money. I am the sole judge of what is valuable to me.

I gave seven dollars to a crazy guy last week who was standing on the median strip playing the guitar for all he was worth with the biggest grin I've ever seen. I really, really, needed the laugh. :)

Posted by: speedwell on December 23, 2003 12:38 PM

Actually, I think street performers are amazing sometimes. A lot of them need the money, and they find interesting things to do (talent helps, too). I saw one guy who did a performance-art type thing where he said "boo" from a set of bushes. Eventually, a crowd would gather to watch people's reactions to him, and they'd give him money.

I saw a guy standing stock still on top of a bucket with a card out in front of him. Turned out he was a "human statue." Saw another gentleman beating out a hip-hop rhythm on a set of large buckets.

Saw a homeless guy once who had gotten hold of a karaoke machine. I swear to god, he had the worst voice I've ever heard, but he appeared to be making money.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little originality.


Posted by: pennywit on December 23, 2003 12:49 PM

I was walking through Horton Plaza (in San Diego) about a decade ago, and was accosted by some guy who asked for a couple of bucks, "because he hadn't eaten in two days". I pointed at the McDonald's about a hundred yards away, and said, "C'mon, I'll buy you anything you want."

He looked at the restaurant, looked back at me and said, "Can I just have the money?"

You can imagine my response.

Posted by: Drumwaster on December 24, 2003 11:05 AM
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