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What do you do if someone asks you for money in the street?

(112 Posts)
EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 17:57:59

I never know how to respond and would like to canvas opinion.

On the way to work this morning, had a woman approach me asking me for money. Usual tale of being short of change to get home and could I just give her £2. However she was airily aggressive, asking if I would help her or 'just laugh like everyone else'. I said I didn't have any change (true, in this case) and apologised.

I've had this happen lots over the years, people asking for 50p/£1/£2 for the phone box/bus/train and I never know how to respond appropriately.

My gut feeling is that this type of begging is often a scam and the stories aren't true. As a teenager I once had a lady ask a friend and I for money, I refused and afterwards said as much to my friend who then berated me for not helping someone in need, how would I feel of it was me etc etc, until the same lady gave is the same story two streets over when we went to the pub that evening.

But then I worry that it really is someone in need, and I would want someone to help me, and a couple of quid hardly breaks the bank. I have occasionally given some, but usually when I've felt intimidated and just want to get away ASAP.

What do you do? I just keep going round in circles in my head!

HildaOgdensCoffeeTable Mon 18-Aug-14 18:02:50

I wouldn't give if I felt intimidated, I'd just say I had no change.
If someone asks for money I have asked them if they could use a drink or some food instead.

AlleyCat11 Mon 18-Aug-14 18:05:48

I live in a city centre & know all of the junkies, drunks & homeless to see. There's plenty of beggars. I give to genuine bad cases - young homeless, old guys who are down on their luck. Sometimes gypsies. I give change, food & packs of cigarettes when I was trying to quit. The ones who I know would mug me in a second get nothing. Nor do I give to Roma.

EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 18:06:29

The thing is times when I've said I don't have money (whether true or not), I have had people shout or get verbally quite aggressive.

The one in particular I'm thinking of when I have money, I was alone in a car park and the man in question was known in the area, and used to beat himself up so he had a bloodied and swollen nose. He was also known for getting aggressive.

That's the other thing, part of me thinks you must be in a pretty shit situation to do something like that and must be desperate, even if the story isn't true.

KingJoffreysBloodshotEye Mon 18-Aug-14 18:07:24

It's a scam.

I used to get the bus to college and there was a guy there every day saying he was stranded and couldn't get home.

I snapped once and told him he asked me every day. He did apologise.

When I lived in Bath people would sit under the cash points and ask for money.

I find many of them can be aggressive. The ones who are genuine are polite and grateful.

They're still less irritating/aggressive than most chuggers though.

annabanana19 Mon 18-Aug-14 18:07:33

Ignore them.

maddy68 Mon 18-Aug-14 18:07:39

I just say "no thanks"

EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 18:09:29

The one today was hard to ignore, literally stepped in front of me. Or maybe I just need to toughen up and not be upset by them shouting/being aggressive.

EvansOvalPiesYumYum Mon 18-Aug-14 18:10:24

If someone is asking aggressively (as in your OP, EduCated), then personally I would refuse, politely.

DP and I visited San Francisco last year, and the number of homeless people obviously needing help was heartbreaking. Some of them quite clearly had mental health issues, as well as being homeless, and quite frankly, should have been in a home somewhere, being cared for. Some of the people were heavily disabled in some cases, and several were very elderly. Did not belong on the streets. We didn't give them money, instead bought food from cafes and shops to hand out, and took our "doggy bags" from our restaurant meals (food untouched, I hasten to add, so not contaminated by us). All the food was gratefully received. We thought this was better than handing out money, as it is either a scam, or they will spend it on alcohol or drugs.

You're right, Edu - buy a sandwich and a coffee, if you want to help. Often it is a scam to get money from kind people.

Topseyt Mon 18-Aug-14 18:13:27

I either ignore or say I have no change, then walk on.

I don't think there is any way to tell whether or not their story is genuine. If I want to help homeless people or good causes I will give money to a charity for that. At least then I have some idea that it should be going towards what I intended.

If I am in London I must admit there are some buskers who play good music. I occasionally chuck a quid or two into their collection, but wouldn't do it if I felt intimidated or bullied by them.

I recently read a book titled "A Street Cat Named Bob" by James Bowen, who is a vendor of "Big Issue" and has written about how he came to own his cat (Bob), and how they depend on each other for their life on the streets of London. I found it very informative about the world for such people. I am now reading his second book (The World According to Bob). It gave me a different perspective.

EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 18:13:56

I have done food before for a 'standard' say in a doorway beggar, it's the ones who approach you with some kind of sob story that throw me.

KingJoffreye Your bit about genuine people being polite and grateful's just reminded me of the lady I gave 50p to at a bus stop - she couldn't be more apologetic for asking or grateful when I gave it to her. Just seemed so much more genuine.

amicissimma Mon 18-Aug-14 18:17:49

If it's someone at a bus stop or station asking for a plausible amount for a fare I give.

I was once stopped by a guy with a motorbike helmet who asked me for the money to buy petrol so that he could get home to Coventry. I did a quick mental calculation and gave him roughly the right amount. 'That's not enough' he said, lighting a cigarette. So I said 'OK, I'll give you £10 for your packet of cigarettes.' 'F* off' quoth he.

LiviaDruscillaAugusta Mon 18-Aug-14 18:19:11

I get this a lot and just tell them I have no money on me. Sometimes it's the same person every Thursday.

AnnaLegovah Mon 18-Aug-14 18:21:30

I just say no. I'm not a charity.

The people in my area who do this are the druggies - they do heroin and crack on the public land directly behind my house and leave their needles/foil behind. They don't get a penny from me I'm afraid.

Nomama Mon 18-Aug-14 18:22:24

I don't often, past experience means they all annoy me now.

In the past I have bought a McD breakfast for one man... he was delighted, he hadn't expected to eat until the following day.

Gave another a fiver and deodorant - he said he had an interview later in the day, so I gave him enough for breakfast and the deodorant I had just bought. He got the job and I still see him every now and then.

I also gave one badly beaten man the contents of my purse, apologising that I only had loose change. It came to about £2, which got him a hot drink whilst he was waiting for his train home. He was extremely grateful, gushingly so.

But mostly I just get irritated. I used to share my time between 2 cities about 50 miles apart. I saw one woman begging in one city, driving home in the other... and told her the next day in her begging spot. She was really threatening, but did move on.

So now I assume they are all scammers.

MrsMarcJacobs Mon 18-Aug-14 18:23:23

I'd say "No, I don't", politely and firmly. If someone is in genuine need, I do tend to help.
I used to see the same people working London areas. One lady in Hammersmith with a dog on the same stretch. Another woman in different areas of SW London.

MrsMarcJacobs Mon 18-Aug-14 18:25:05

amicissimma I have been scammed by the whole petrol thing too - this was before mobile phones though so it seemed genuine.

EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 18:25:47

Is it ever worth reporting to the police? I sometimes think that perhaps it would help get them the help they need, but I think that might be a bit of a naive thing I tell myself to make myself feel better. I never had reported anyone.

LadySybilLikesCake Mon 18-Aug-14 18:28:41

There's a bloke who used to hang around Derby city centre and he looked like a real down and out. Shivering, dirty hair, rags, wrapped up in a dirty sleeping bag. People used to give him change. He was in the local newspaper as he'd been issued with an ASBO. He lived in a flat, so wasn't homeless, and was earning £300 odd a week by pretending to be homeless. He's now moved to Nottingham!

I used to get people coming up to me all the time in Derby, even when I was with ds, asking for money. I never carry change with me wink It's very annoying. I've nothing against buying someone a hot drink and something to eat, but cash is different, especially when there's a chance it will end up being spent on super strength cider (I used to recognise them from being one of the bunch who sits and gets pissed all day). I'd rather donate to charity (and have done). I do buy the big issue though, but even now it's hard to tell whether you're funding someone who needs help or some gang from a different country.

ohtheholidays Mon 18-Aug-14 18:41:20

Both myself and my DH always help out.It depends on the person,if anyone's busking we always give cash.If they look like they're could do with a hot meal and a drink we'll usually go and buy them something hot to eat and drink and buy them a few packets of sandwiches and a few cold drinks so they hopefully have enough food for the next couple of days.

If they have a dog with them we also pick up some bits for they're dogs.Anyone that's homeless and has a dog with them is always so grateful for that(we've had many a man or women give us a hug and cry because we bought something for they're dog)sometimes that's the only thing that keeps them going is they're dog companion.

Have helped out a young couple with a little one that got on the bus I was on when I was teenager they were 20p short on the bus fair and the bus driver was going to kick them of the bus.It was freezing cold and pouring down,packed bus and I was the only one that offered them the 20p.

The lady cried and the guy was chocked up they sat down near me and we got chatting they'd had a bloody awful time of late and were completely skint.
Some of the others on the bus heard and a few blushed others put they're head down.
I still see them sometimes now and they're life's really happy now thankfully and they've never forgot and always mention me helping them out and it was only 20p.

I'd rather help someone out and find out later they didn't need help than not help anyone out and some poor soul could be at the end of the tether.

firesidechat Mon 18-Aug-14 18:42:49

I live in a city with lots of beggars and after a while you become hardened to it.

I buy the Big Issue on rare occasions and apart from that never give money. If asked directly I say "no, sorry" and that I have no change, which is usually true. If they just sit there I put my head down and ignore.

I've been asked for money so that they could get into the homeless shelter too and said no to that as well.

It's heartbreaking to some extent, but you could be giving money umpteen times a day otherwise.

The begging you describe EduCated is even more tricky. I like to think that I would help someone in need, but the cynic in me would think it was a scam and that is a shame for any genuinely needy people out there.

ThatBloodyWoman Mon 18-Aug-14 18:45:40

Busking -money
Big Issue-buy if I can afford
Begging -money
Being approached and directly asked-sorry, no.

EduCated Mon 18-Aug-14 18:47:13

Yeah Fireside, I don't really mean the sort of 'general' beggars who are out on the street, but the ones who match up to you and present you with a particular story, e.g. had an argument with their boyfriend who's driven off and left them, or one lady said she'd been in court and needed to phone her solicitor else her kids would be taken off her etc (actually, I think I gave her a pound and she immediately started asking if I'd got any more hmm )

And it's never actually usually by a bus stop or a phone box, which always seems a bit odd.

KillmeNow Mon 18-Aug-14 18:53:23

In Birmingham city centre we were approached by a big issue seller who we had seen going round the pubs near the chinese quarter.There always lots of stag and hen parties there and he had been mingling with them.

The thing was that he only had one copy of the Big Issue. He started with one at the top of the street and by the time he reached us he still had the same copy. Turned out he was spinning a sob story about not having made his target as not enough people had paid so he would miss out on wages for the day once the last copy had gone. Since no-one really wanted to cart a copy of the big issue around while dressed as a sailor in a tutu he was given the money and allowed to keep the copy.

We didnt give anything since we had seen the whole proceedings .But full marks for capitalising on meagre resources.

BertieBotts Mon 18-Aug-14 19:00:33

Yes there was a guy who used to hang around my local town with a limp with a different story each day, he got wearing and I used to say sorry I've got no change.

I did have one lady come up to me once though and compliment DS who was about two, she looked wistfully at him and said "My son's about the same age but he was adopted". I gave her the money. The next time I saw her she was totally wasted but she remembered and said thank you. Sad sad You have to wonder what kind of life someone has had to end up in that kind of position, really.

I usually give if I can spare it, but I know it's not always the right thing to do. I live in a larger city now in another European country and the beggars are different. They are always Roma, you can see them do a shift change at the same time each day and a few of them are amputees and they leave the amputated limb directly on display in a way that is really obvious they've gone out of their way to do so, often sticking out into the path presumably in the hope that someone will trip over it and feel bad? They make me quite uncomfortable and although I haven't seen it personally I have heard they quite often have children with them as well. I bought a double pack of gloves in Primark last winter and happened to walk past a beggar lady as I was going home and gave her the other pair but she didn't put them on. So here, I don't give to beggars in the street but I would probably give to buskers.

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