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Aggressive beggars... What to do?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
(Some background: I live in one of the most population dense areas in Columbus, and not in a very good neighborhood... some would term it 'scary')

What do you guys do about aggressive begging? What I mean by this is people who won't leave you alone, follow you, curse at you, yell, etc. I had one guy follow me two blocks to work once, screaming obscenities at me the whole time, my manager called the cops for me. He was scary.

Just today when I was in line at Taco Bell () a man came up next to me and asked me for 1.39$ and when I told him I have no cash he went on and on about whether my mother was abusive and just because she was didn't mean I should take it out on him and how he would help me... so on and so on.

Now, the people who politely ask I just look at and say No, sorry. But these few who are like this I don't know what to do about. If they're inside a store they usually get kicked out but there's no telling what kind of reaction the aggressive ones will have--- one of them threw a rock at my head because I wouldn't give her a lighter (I'm not about to stop at night walking home alone to dig through my purse!)

So, I can't avoid them really, I can't be mean back, and I will not be an enabler and give them money... what to do?

I have once, when a woman was coming up to me at Kroger's, said first "Do you have any change?" before they can start. That worked pretty well, but usually the mean/violent ones you don't see coming.
post #2 of 28
That sounds absolutely terrible! I live in a town with a population of like 3000 so I cant really give you any advice, over here in Iowa we barely hear about stuff like that happening. So all I can tel you is good luck, I have noidea on what you should do... Sorry..
post #3 of 28
Good lord, this is a police matter! These are not beggars, these are dangerous people, most of them probably mentally ill, and they don't need to be on the streets.

Of course, unless there is massive change in our judicial and healthcare systems, they're going to be...but the ones who actually commit a crime by threatening, stalking, harrassing, and attacking people... they can and should be taken off the street.


The ones who are simply begging, who are not aggressive, who simply need some help... I'm so happy to give them anything I can. Let me share something:

Many years ago, when I was working and had money, I had business downtown one day. After the appointment, I decided to treat myself to lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, which had the most amazing nachos and strawberry shortcake on the planet. So I sat and enjoyed my lunch and read my book and relaxed awhile... and as I was walking back to my car, I was approached by an old woman.

She was heartbreakingly thin, her feet were bound up in cloth to hold some disintegrating bedroom slippers on, and she walked all bent over. She said, "Could you spare a dollar, dear?"

I dug in my purse for a moment, looking for something smaller than a twenty... and then it hit me: there I was, young and healthy, gainfully employed, full of an expensive lunch, about to drive off in a nice car... and I was searching for a smaller bill to give to this poor woman.

I handed her a twenty and she said, "God bless you" and turned to go. Then she saw it was a twenty, and she stopped and looked back and said, "Oh, honey, thank you so much!"

Now, I don't know whether she was going to buy food or liquor or heroin with that money. But I felt so good about giving it to her, about the fact that she had enough money now that she might not have to walk around begging for the rest of the day... and about making her feel better, at least for a moment. I wished I'd given her more. To this day, I wish I'd driven her to a store and bought her some shoes.

Because I don't think we're here on earth to judge one another. I think we're here to help one another... y'know?
post #4 of 28
It is very hard to not want to help and twice as hard to really figure out what they are going to do with it. I could not stand to know someone was hungrey.
I have given money plenty of times and a few that I just didnt give to.
I had a guy one evening walking up to my car as I was backing up and I actually got kinda scared because I was still backing up and he was staring at me still walking towards. I guess the best thing is not to make eye contact at all. We have many here all the time always in the same place, they will be drinking a coke & smoking those are the ones I avoid.
post #5 of 28
I also live in Columbus, ive only seen homeless people downtown but I dont live there, so ive never been asked for money. Its crazy how they can get AGRESSIVE on you, i'd definatley just tell a cop.
post #6 of 28
The fact that they are aggressive is very scary...I do give money out a lot though but, never had anyone be aggressive
post #7 of 28
Last semester during school, a friend and I went to lunch. When we were leaving, a lady approached my car and asked for money. My friend and I started rummaging around looking. The manager of the restaurant came running out and chased the lady off. Before she was chased off, she was asking for money for a cab to Bartlett. To give you some perspective, I was downtown, Bartlett is about a 20 minute drive.... (wasn't there something on here about judging distance in time and not miles? hehehe)

Anyway, we felt bad we weren't able to help, but apparently she was known around the restaurant. The following week, we were at Office Depot just down the street from the previous incident, and this same lady, obviously not remembering us, came up to us again and started asking for money to get a cab to Bartlett. Bartlett is a decent area. I can't imagine that wherever she was trying to get to someone couldn't come get her, you know?

So anyway, we reminded her that she asked us for money a few days ago, and as soon as she heard that, she took off. We started to believe maybe she wasn't trying to get to Bartlett...

Then last week at the hospital I was working at, someone cornered my friend outside the cafeteria and asked for money to stay in the shelter for the night. My friend refused to give him money, but told him that if he met her outside at X:00, she would go with him to the shelter and pay for it. He didn't show up.

Unfortunately, it is hard to tell which ones really need the help, and which ones are just going to blow it on whatever. Sometimes I help, sometimes I cant. After all, I am a broke college student myself.
post #8 of 28
I don't encounter this these days, but when living in Europe, I'd get it a lot. In London I'd always carry a some change to give people. They used to sell a magazine for homeess people and I'd always buy it. It was a way of giving without the people "begging" so much.
The worse for me was when I went to Russia for a month. It was heartbreaking to see these old people standing out on the street (this was in the middle of winter too) and look so ashamed to be in that position. I'd always try to give a few roubles.
It was a real culture shock for me coming from New Zealand where we didn't have beggars when I was growing up.
As for aggressive beggars, I'm not sure how to respond. I think it's obvious not to engage them, ie, don't be yelling back, but there are limits to what you can put up with! Would the police respond if you called? You said it's a bad area of town so I wonder if they'd take their time getting there?
post #9 of 28
It is scary. I work in Washington, DC and there is a panhandler on every block, at every metro station even on the metro trains. There is no way you can give money to every panhandler. Where I work it is the same people every day, day in and day out. This is thier job if you will, thier profession. I have been working here for over five years and while some change the same people are working the same corners.

I give to social programs not to individuals. On my way to work I just keep my head up and don't acknowledge them. It may sound bad but I have seen them chase people that did give them some change yelling that it was not enough. I have found that when I do that they ignore me and go to people they can intimidate. If it was a one time deal or one person I would consider it but for where I am there is just so many it is overwhelming. I would love to erase poverty but I would rather give to organizations that can do more good with my money in terms of shelters and food through bulk purchases.

post #10 of 28
Originally Posted by Zissou'sMom View Post
What do you guys do about aggressive begging? What I mean by this is people who won't leave you alone, follow you, curse at you, yell, etc.
We don't have many people like that here because "begging" is actually against the law here. Police tend to turn a blind eye though unless the person is causing problems for the business or to people in general.
post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 
It isn't usually feasible to call the cops every time this happens. They don't take their time getting here (to be more specific, it's a neighborhood in which a very poor inner-city neighborhood and a bunch of suburban college kids live together) but I don't know if they'd even come for this, there is enough crime around here for twice as many cops. It's illegal here too but that doesn't stop anybody.

I guess what I did today worked, he eventually left me alone, but sometimes it gets to be on the border of mugging.

Please don't judge me for not giving money to people-- I get asked 10-15 times on an average day, I really don't carry cash with me, and there is a huge public campaign called "Help, not a Handout," giving them just enough money to scrape by on the street is the worst thing you can do in a town like this which really does want to help them. The building next to me is FREE housing for formerly homeless drug/alcohol addicts. Apartments, for free, which eventually once they start a job they pay some percentage for, but it's not a requirement. A majority of beggars like this, in this area, are neither really homeless nor hungry. They're addicts. I know that isn't true everywhere, but it is here.

Thanks for all the support! It is really scary, often people who are going to mug you come up and seem like they're just an aggressive beggar but then it crosses the fine line...
post #12 of 28
I would carry a personal alarm and pull it when this stuff happens... most are over 100 descibals and would scare the crap out of most....
post #13 of 28
Oooo, I know just how awful that is.

We lived in Berkeley for almost three years, with no car, and I walked everywhere with my little girl (we were there when she was about 18 months to 4 years old).

Once, in a park that had a toddler park, we went to use the bathrooms and there was a homeless guy there who wouldn't let us go in. He stood in front of the door and started SCREAMING at me when we tried to go behind him, "DON'T WALK BEHIND ME! DON'T YOU DARE WALK BEHIND ME!" on and on. He kept screaming obscenities at me as we walked away, too. I was shaking all the way home.

Another time, on a Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m., my husband was out of town and my daughter (almost three at the time) and I walked the four blocks to the video store to return a movie. I bought her a bottle of juice while we were there. As we walked out, a homeless guy latched on to us and kept asking her if he could have a drink of her juice! He kept on trying to get between us, even though I was holding her hand. For three blocks I was desperately trying to think where to go since I didn't want to lead him to our house. I didn't want to be rude, either, and tick him off because I have seen these guys get pretty threatening and violent. A block from our house, I saw a neighbor in his window, sitting in his basement office, so I went to the door and rang the bell. He came out and the homeless guy bolted. The neighbor walked us home and then called the police.

We had a crazy woman folllow us once, screaming, "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" over and over. We finally lost her by ducking into a bakery. And once downtown, a man started yelling at me that my daughter should be in school, and why was she playing hookey, and what a bad mother I am, etc. She was three years old and was wearing a little backpack that had her stuffed kitty in it.

My husband walked to work at the University every day, and he's 6'2" and even he had to be constantly on his guard.

Whew, no offense to anyone, but we were glad to leave Berkeley!
post #14 of 28
I work in Washington DC too, on the NW side. I often help the homeless out, but then the majority of the ones near my office building aren't aggressive at all. I think a lot of the time, they're aggravated when you ignore them, because most people do... so I make an effort to say hello to them all, at least, even if I can't give them money or buy them a meal or something. They get really mad when people ignore them.. I guess I can't really blame them there, although certainly I don't blame people for ignoring them. It's a rough spot to be put in when you're faced with someone potentially less fortunate than you are. I feel just awful for them, but there are those that are just conning too. I think I'd be really aggravated if people just dismissed me. Certainly it would build a lot of anger.

Not saying, of course, that you're doing any of this. I just meant that I guess I can understand why they get angry. I don't know how I'd handle it. I'm probably a little more confrontational than most, though, in those types of situations. They're probably used to people being intimidated by them.
post #15 of 28
I hate to say it, but ignore them.

Growing up in the Detroit Metro area, you HAVE TO...otherwise you give money to one person and then they all expect it (unless you're parking in downtown and then you have to pay the homeless guy an extra $20 in addition to the $15 parking fee to ensure that your car isn't broken into).

Anyway though, where we live is on the main busline from Detroit. When the Superbowl came here in 2006 (or 2005?) the mayor shipped all the homeless out to the suburbs during superbowl.

You just ignore them....that's all.
post #16 of 28
Pepper spray. Most of the time you don't need to even spray, just showing the intent will have them back off. If you get the ones with dye in them, it'll help the police ID them.
post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 
I do try to be nice, at least at first... I do feel bad for people who really are just down on their luck, getting out of bad situations, etc--- I say "I'm sorry" or that I don't have any money--- I used to volunteer every week at the homeless shelter until this really horrible accident involving a girl who was volunteering dying in a dumbwaiter... If they ask for cigarettes or leftovers I'm carrying, etc, I'll give it to them. But I don't have any money either! If they go beyond that, into the following/threatening/abusive stage, I do ignore them. It's hard though... I would never consider yelling at them or anything, it's really not in my nature, I get scared not angry.

You all have some good ideas! I carry pepper spray that is pepper spray, tear gas, and UV dye all in one, out in my hand, anytime I am walking alone. The alarm whistle is a good idea, I have one on my door and window. But in a crowded building sometimes it would have the opposite effect.

I do feel for them, and it is frustrating, but it's frustrating for me too. I want to help them but I know that it's beyond my capacity to, really. Half the time I'm on my way to work and class and the other half I'm walking home from work alone, and stopping is dangerous to say the least. I know at least the street here is always crowded, there's usually somebody to look out for you. I saw a man chasing after this girl on Wednesday and missed a bus making sure she got away from him, he was also very creepy and wasn't asking for money if you get my meaning.

SwampWitch, I really can't imagine how much scarier this would be with a child. Luckily it's just myself and I can run and defend, that would be terrifying with a three-year-old. I have now managed to avoid being mugged twice, most recently last week. A man saw me coming and stopped, and kept walking by my building over and over. I went to the wrong floor, and acted like I was walking through and doubled back. Luckily he couldn't see me come inside. There was a riot about two blocks from here this weekend too. I wish I could afford to live north of here where it's safer
post #18 of 28
You be really careful, O.K.? Scary, scary....
post #19 of 28
Be careful missy! Take Zissou with you, she'll beat em up!

I truly think Noel would, anyway.. but she can be evil.. but, no one messes with her mom.

One of the things in general that they say is to be "aware" of your surroundings.. don't walk with your head down. Look around lots. Make sure that potential muggers, etc, see you looking around. The other thing I'd heard said is if you see someone who is acting oddly, make sure you look them in the face. Most of them don't want to be recognized, and if a potential victim seems able to accurately identify them, as in.. you've said hello, or spent a few seconds looking at their face, they'll move on to someone else.

With someone following you around, if it were me, I'd turn around to them, face them, and bark "BACK OFF NOW!" with my finger pointed at them. That's me though, and I don't want to advocate that, because, like I said earlier, I'm a bit more confrontational than most.. but it seems to work for me (not with our homeless, but it has worked nicely with con artists, and out of control DCites). Most people who are used to using aggression to get their way tend to be absolutely shocked when whoever they're aggravating turns around and confronts them. Most people just hang their heads, and try to sit quietly while they get through the incident.

Do you have a friend or neighbor that you can pair up with to walk or travel to and from work and school? You're probably much safer in a pair.
post #20 of 28
Pretend you don't understand English, or Spanish, or whatever. Shrug your shoulders, and say, "Ich verstehe nichts. Hau ab!" (Eeek fur-shtay-a neex. How ahp) [I don't understand anything. Get outta here!]). That's not quite "phonetically correct", but the way my mother managed to learn it. Vary with French, Polish, Chinese, whatever. I'm sure some people here can give you some variations.

I've been doing it for years, and it usually works, especially if you talk fast. I had a teachers' conference yesterday, and ran into a Spanish colleague at the train station. We were walking to school, and met up with one of those really aggressive types. I started speaking in English, pretending I didn't understand German, when A. spouted off in some language that definitely wasn't Spanish. It seems he knows some rather choice Basque expressions he uses. I've definitely got to get him to teach them to me.

BTW, it's also a good way of getting rid of door-to-door salesmen and missionaries (unless they're Mormons. Nothing against Mormons - it just seems that they often speak several languages).
post #21 of 28
Let me tell you a story that happened to me, and my husband and my daughter several years ago.

We were in Hattiesburg (about 30 miles away) and we were on our way home, there on the side of the road stood a kid, probably was not over 17 or 18 years old. He was holding up a sign that said "Will work for food, we pulled into a Wendys, and we ordered him something to eat. We stopped and gave it to him, and before we could get turned around, he was already sitting down eating it. We also gave him some money to get some more food later, it absolutely broke my heart, me and Desirée were crying so hard.

The only thing that I regret about that day, was I didn't even think to ask him if he just needed to go home or something. I would have gladly paid for a ticket to anywheres, if that is what he needed.

That was the first time I have ever given money, when I see people like that, I will usually just buy them something to eat.
post #22 of 28
There used to be a homeless person at Liverpool St Station who was always there when I got the train home from school. I bought him something to eat a few times when it was particularly cold and miserable. In my final year he started talking about getting himself 'sorted'. My mum found an old suit belonging to my dad and gave it to him to wear to interviews and he eventually got a job. She seen him not so long ago, he now works for a charity helping the homeless and remembered us and thanked her, so I am sure that kid really appreciated the meal Bea!
post #23 of 28
I ignore them. I don't even acknowledge them. If they do bother me, I just say no.

My mom thinks I am just cruel, but when people have signs that say "will work for food." "Need money homeless." I just don't feel sorry for them. This has to do with the fact that I am very suspicious if they are in real need. ( I do donate to homeless shelters.)

The first thing you should do is look at their shoes. I always look and most of the time they are sporting Nikes.

A newspaper did an article in my city about Panhandlers. They make around 1200 bucks a month. That's more than what I make. That's all I have to say about that.

Keep walkin'
post #24 of 28
Downtown Memphis is REALLY bad about that- you get haggled all the time. It got soo bad that they started imposing regulations to keep people from panhandling. The cops have gotten better about patroling those areas to help keep it at bay. BUT the best thing you can do is try not to go out alone, always have pepper spray (ready to use!) on you, and your cell phone. And never hesitate to make a lot of loud noises (screaming- call attention to yourself if you feel you're not safe- make a lot of noise and attract others attention!) stay in well light areas, etc. Do whatever you need to to keep yourself safe. Also- talk to your local police problem/politicians about the problems in your area and see if they might be able to impose regulations/ have cops patrol that area more.
post #25 of 28
Oh ZM, I don't think anyone is judging you -- I'm sure not! I only meant to draw a distinction between those who are threatening criminal acts and those who are just looking for help in a nonthreatening way. And my comment about judging one another was meant to say that even though I have no way of knowing whether they're going to use my money to buy liquor or drugs, I still feel giving is the right thing... just on principle.

But I can imagine how hard it must be to deal with the whole issue in a situation like yours, where you encounter both the scary types and the genuinely needy people. And maybe the best thing for a city to do in that kind of situation would be to outlaw begging -- but only if the city is willing and able to provide food and shelter for those who truly need them. Because it's just unthinkable, in this wealthy nation, for anyone to die of starvation or exposure. When it happens, it's reflection on all of us, y'know? (And I know that many of the homeless are mentally ill or otherwise intractable, and often refuse the help of authorities. This is one reason why we need far better regulations pertaining to the mentally ill.)

Lest you think I've only had good experiences with homeless people and see them through rose-colored glasses: one time I was walking up a downtown street, a side street with no other people in sight, and a homeless man came toward me, talking to me from 'way down the block. As he got closer, I could hear that he was talking about, "These aren't mine, but they're mine now, and I can use 'em, yes I can, I know how to use these, you wanna see? You want me to show you? These are mine and I can use 'em on you, I can use 'em on you, yes I can..." And when he was about ten feet ahead of me, I saw that he was clutching a whole bunch of knives to his chest, a whole armload of knives.

If he'd wanted to "use 'em," he sure could have, because I was too scared to do anything but just keep walking. He started to follow me, but didn't, thank goodness.

I hope you're smarter than I was that day! Please be very careful... and move if you possibly can...
post #26 of 28
There are a LOT of them here, and its the same ones I say day in day out, holding up a sign saying they are out of gas and stranded (for 6 months? ) but they will be standing there smoking cigarettes.

There is a guy downtown that's out here every day at lunch and I've given him money a couple times. He's in a wheelchair and has no legs and i truly feel sorry for him, but honestly, I barely get by on what I have and I cant' afford to be handing out money to every person that comes up to me asking. If I did that, I would soon be joining them on the street.

I have never had one get aggressive with me though. I do carry pepper spray all the time though and if I felt threatened I would probably use that, or at least have it out so they can see it.
post #27 of 28
I work for a homeless charity and would prefer that people gave money to charities rather than individuals- too often you are enabling their addiction of simplying stopping them from accessing the help available. As for aggressive beggars I walk away, then if necessary run- I most certainly avoid giving them money as it just reinforces the idea that aggression works
In many of the cases suggested in this thread I would call the cops
post #28 of 28
Originally Posted by Breal76 View Post
I ignore them. I don't even acknowledge them. If they do bother me, I just say no.

My mom thinks I am just cruel, but when people have signs that say "will work for food." "Need money homeless." I just don't feel sorry for them. This has to do with the fact that I am very suspicious if they are in real need. ( I do donate to homeless shelters.)

The first thing you should do is look at their shoes. I always look and most of the time they are sporting Nikes.

A newspaper did an article in my city about Panhandlers. They make around 1200 bucks a month. That's more than what I make. That's all I have to say about that.

(PS I know this isn't true in all cases for homeless people, some just drew the short end of the stick in life. However, its these cases that really spoil it in regards to the programs and things set up for them.)

Keep walkin'
EXACTLY!!! Back when I lived in Chicago (way young) the Sun or Tribune did a study on some of the homeless people here and there was one guy that "disappeared" during the winter months. They discovered one guy was making $36K per YEAR and flying to Florida during the winter months.

Here in Detroit there was a local musician that had a line something about receiving public assistance and owning a Mercedes Benz.

PS, I know this isn't true in all cases, as some people jsut have bad luck in life. However its cases like the above that winds up ruining it for everyone else.
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