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Begging: How to Respond

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Posted: 2007-01-16 00:16:00   

It seems travelers encounter people begging almost everywhere we go... but what is the best response? The topic was brought to mind again by an article in the Washington Post:

The article is interesting and brings up some thoughtful points, but really doesn't come to any satisfying conclusion, so I'm putting to you: What is your policy regarding begging? What have you tried that seemed to work (or not work!)? Tell me your stories...


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Posted: 2007-01-16 10:45:00   

Generally speaking I don't give anything to beggars neither at home nor abroad.

I gave some street musician a few coins or a pantomime or so.

When I meet children in "3rd Wolrd" contries asking me for money or only pens I think well you should not be in such a position. You should not be begging for something. You should either be in school or do something in order to get you money.

my 2 cts


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Posted: 2007-01-16 12:43:00   


I myself as well like Martin do not give to beggars, as it is encouraging them even more, if I have to give something I will give them food, such as fruits or bread, but not money! I have read on a newspaper that beggars in the holly town of Lourdes in France, a pelgrimage site, were making an average of over 2000 Euros per month (that was 3 years ago). It is far more that I made while working 9 hours shifst! I know that sometime it can be heartbrealking, but it is difficult.

The only time, When I might give something, it will be a extremely disabled person in a develloping country when they don't have social security at all.

But I won't give anything to children apart from food, as they will resell their pens on some occasion to buy glue to snif or drugs.

There are so difficult situations sometimes. Thanks for posting that in the forum!

"It is far more better to have seen it once than to have heard about it a thousand time." Mongolian proverb

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Posted: 2007-01-16 14:36:00   

Hi Liz!

I agree with what was said in reply to this topic. To give money to beggars hurts their dignity. It is certainly not easy. But you alsways can be polite and friendly, but decisive. It will work. You don't need to be harsh and you never should yell at them, then they will harass you even more.

When you give money than you create the image of the foreigner from the Golden West. That destroys the hospitality and friendliness of the people.

It is also to consider that the traveller brings himself in danger when he shows

that he has money to give away, because he doesn't know, who is behind the beggars. And he doesn't know who is observing him. As I mostly travel alone, I am very cautious not to create a situation which I can't identify.


"To Live In One Country Is Captivity", John Donne, "Change", 1635

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Posted: 2007-01-16 14:44:00   

Yes, begging should generally be discouraged but every situation should be weighed separately. Children usually get only a disappointing few cents or sweets from me but I admit to giving far too much occasionally. It is stupid to think that if one does not give at all that the kids will all go to school and work and be prosperous thereafter. In most cases they (sadly) do not have any chances at all! There is often no proper education and no economy they can reach to! By giving them a few dollars they might at least once in their lives know how it is to “have”! They can choose later to work or not.

One really does a far better favour by supporting charities and organisations like UNICEF that help development of whole communities since, if the parents have an income, the children then do not have to beg.

I am more concerned about adult beggars, the most of who did not beg as children. There was a report of a beggar in Johannesburg who drove a Rolls-Royce on his "off" days! Such "pushy" can earn as much as $30/hour tax-free and live with hardly any costs! I give occasionally, specially to the old and handicapped, my religion (also Islam) wishes it. I agree, one should support artists, comedians and musicians who brighten and liven up our streets. In the third world I like to buy hand-made artwork and goods from the street rather than at the hotel or airport, to encourage them.

Once I financed my girlfriend by producing a music-video for her in Barcelona. On the last day sitting on the promenade and sipping a last sangria with our feet up, I asked my girlfriend for an Euro, she carried my cash, so that we could give it to a poor old dumb lady begging while passing by. My girlfriend refused saying that HER mother could to better with the Euro. We argued so much about the principle for days that we separated soon after that. Perhaps that old lady drove a Rolls too? I was willing to accept the doubt that day, specially seeing the look in that woman’s eyes. People who don't ever give should also not receive!

After a lot of irritation over months, I gave our one-and-only and last local beggar $50 with words of encouragement but a condition that we never will see him again in our neighbourhood. He agreed and danced like he had won a million at lotto! I now feel so very bad. I have not seen him, neither others again, and fear he might have died soon after that of alcohol poisoning or frostbite?

In a social city like Munich there is no need to beg and giving such here is very wrong, there are enough programs for the needy here. One program is whereby the poor sell sponsored weekly magazines in malls and passages and keep the take.

Also to understand begging, consider this: Have we not all begged to our parents for money or our bosses for a raise?


Rudolf "Rangutan" Graspointner

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Posted: 2007-01-16 15:15:00   

I usually give to beggars but my experience is not very good as a basis for continuing the practice.

At home in ireland i gave one morning to a lady to whom i first gave a lift into the city in my car and having heard her heart rending story of an emergency admission of her husband to hospital gave generously as well. The following morning i noticed her by the roadside obviously ready to ply her trade once more and i passed by.

Once in a large foreign city as i went out iin the morning to work a lady with two infants was sitting in the blazing sunshine and i gave. In the evening she had moved round the corner to be once more in the hot sun rending the hearts of passers by.

But i am too old to change and i will i believe continue to give on the off-chance they are genuine. oh and by the way the most winning beggars i ever met were children with happy smiles in a really crowded city street in an African country


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Posted: 2007-01-17 10:39:00   

In London and other large cities in the UK we have a magazine similar to Biss called the Big Issue which is sold on the street by the homeless within a fairly regulated and safe system. All vendors are required to buy the magazines before selling them and must be authorised by the charity and wear identification. Like Biss, the Big Issue Foundation is a member of the International Network of Street Papers

This provides those who might otherwise turn to begging with some dignity as they are actually selling something in return for the money they receive. I regularly buy a copy of the magazine and ignore those that I consider to be professional beggars. When I do give to beggars it is usually because I believe they have a genuine need, I believe you can tell a lot about a persons need or desperation by looking into their eyes. I don't particularly care whether they rush of and spent the money on alcohol or a hot meal that is their decision, if I see someone in genuine need and I can afford to help them I will try to.

I should add that this is only my experience of London and other European cities, I suspect the situation in parts of Africa and South America is vastly different and requires a more thoughtful approach.



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