Discussion » Beijing Life » Homeless and Done, Nowhere to Run

  • Pete DeMola
    Pete DeMola wrote:
    Here's a great blog post from the folks at Gawker on today's NYT piece on telling the difference between genuine homeless folks and plain old drunk party-goers in sunny Key West, Florida, the only homeless dude left in Times Square and the overall trainwreck that is the American economy.

    Does that meta make your head spin or what? Okay. Discussion time:

    How do you react to beggars here in Beijing when they pester you for change? How about the people on the subway?

    I always ignore them. Always. Doesn't matter if they're old and crippled, holding a kid, missing a leg, are virtuosos at playing the flute or silently kneeling in front of a long, immaculately-scribed plea for help written with chalk on the pavement.

    100% of the time, they get nothing. I think giving them money only encourages their handlers to perpetuate the cycle.

    But I don't understand the folks in the areas that I heavily frequent -- primarily Wudaokou and Xingfucun Zhonglu -- whom I see several times a day and still ask for a handout.

    You'd think after several months (and for those in Wudaokou, four damn years) they'd have me tagged, like "Okay, this guy is a lost cause so I'm going to stop asking him because he's never given me anything and he probably won't start now."

    Thoughts?

    Oh yeah, and I don't want any politicized bullshit, digs against China, claims of cultural superiority, ad hominem attacks or any of the other immature rubbish that derails threads and turns them into a pissing match between you-know-who and the rest of the community. I'll delete that shit quicker than you can say "朋友, 朋友... Can you spare some change?"
  • Mari Deli
    Mari Deli wrote:
    I think you made a good point. I enjoyed reading your post, you have excellent english.
  • Pavoir Sponse
    Pavoir Sponse wrote:
    I try to give something 100% of the time, in reality it works out nothing like that but I give pretty often.

    In fact if anyone asks me for money, I try to give it if I can. You never know when the shoe is gonna be on the other foot.

    I guess those guys just hope you gonna cave in Pete.
  • Joakim Berg Solum
    +1 to Carlos. I can sorta understand their plight as my family has been through some pretty rough times too. (And thank god for America's support system. If not for that we probably would have been homeless at one point. But programs like welfare and public housing are designed for people down on their luck and willing to work to get out of it, like my mother was, as opposed to people who live off welfare their whole lives and try to stay on it as long as they can... sorry, getting off topic)

    But Pete has a good point too... by giving beggars money, you just encourage them to stay in the "profession." If no one gave them money, it would no longer be profitable to be a beggar and they'd have to find something else to do, or starve/freeze to death on the streets. But I figure if they are already so far gone they have to beg, they've already tried everything else. Not many people would give them a chance at employment either considering they are dirty, have no decent clothing, and probably uneducated w/ no skills. It only costs me 1RMB to help them out a little and I'm lucky enough that I can afford it. Social programs (government sponsored shelter, food, clean clothing and job placement) would clearly be money better spent on these people, but we don't exactly live in an ideal world either.
  • Pavoir Sponse
    Pavoir Sponse wrote:
    I take your point Peter, I don't think guilt is the best reason to give money.

    I don't do it out of guilt or even out of any hugely moral predisposition. More because relatively speaking it makes no big deal to me, I always thnk I could fall on hard times any given moment and I figure if somebody is begging then they probably don't have many options or at least can't see any.
  • 叮噹叔叔 (令狐叮噹)
    ...

    Hahahaha ... because my wife checks every cent I spent (or rather, every mao and yuan), so if I hand out money, even if only a few yuans, she will give me her standard lecture ... so to avoid getting the lecture, I dont hand out money ...
  • Daniel Westerberg
    I don't give money to beggars, I have on occasions given them pizza leftovers from Kro's nest :P

    I remember one time, when a friend of mine gave a beggar 1 fen (100 fen = 1rmb) and the beggar got pissed off and threw the money back at my friend and started yelling.. I have also seen to many of the one legged beggars very quickly grow the other leg back and start running when the police shows up..
  • Pavoir Sponse
    Pavoir Sponse wrote:
    1 Fen is kinda taking the piss...
  • Rebecca Arnesen
    agreed, 1 fen is ridiculous. that guy deserved it.
    Anyhow, its not very difficult to come up with a 'philosophy' to keep money in your own pocket.
    Give if you feel like it will help the beggar if thats what you want to do, don't let others saying shit they simply cannot back up put you off either "its probably going to some kind of gang leader anyway." yeah right.
    These are the same kind of arguement as, "well most of the money that goes to charity is probably siphoned off and/or mispent". i.e potentially true, but what you gonna do with such a small amount anyway?
    oh yeah, get another round at kros every, er, 6 months.
  • 随便叫兽
    随便叫兽 wrote:
    Peter,
    Can you say strawman?

    That's not an extreme left liberal thing to say. That's fucking small-time. For once, could you not use "liberal" as a pejorative to describe people you don't like? There are Christian right-wingers with the same guilt complex you just described.

    The liberal point of view would be to build a shelter or a soup kitchen. A lot of liberals don't even actually feel bad for the homeless. They just don't like seeing property values decline.

    I'm somewhat left of liberal and I still don't give bums money unless I've got small change balled up in my pocket. It doesn't solve the problem of homelessness.

    I heard there's some sort of criminal organization that sponsors the beggars here. So they don't even get to keep the money they're given. Has anyone ever encountered a person or a couple holding a baby, asking for money to feed it? Is this part of a child trafficking ring?
  • Pavoir Sponse
    Pavoir Sponse wrote:
    Agreed Jarg.

    Another one I don't like is that morally indignant, 'but don't give him money, he'll only buy drugs with it!"

    "like dude, he's blind with no legs... I think drugs is a pretty good idea"

    I know what I would do.
  • Minger
    Minger wrote:
    I'm pretty much in agreement with Pete DeMola here, and never give money to any of them. There was one time though that I broke down and gave 100 to a guy with no arms and no skin who was writing with his feet. I then cried all the way home..

    I don't know how often the money goes to the handler who cut off their arms and burned off their skin to make them successful beggars vs how often it helps someone in need who really has no option. I assume in the case of the one time I gave money that at least part of it went to buying gasoline to burn off someone else's skin... chalk it up to momentary weakness since I wish I could do something about it, but can't.

    I never feel guilty about not giving money though. There are hundreds of millions of people in need, and while I completely support a systematic solution, I don't think my giving money to someone I don't know just because I see them is going to do anything to help the problem.
  • Kodi
    Kodi wrote:
    I think they work for some sort of beggar pimp or something. I think someone feeds off of their misfortune, which is pretty sad. I am torn between this idea and the fact that maybe they could use a little cash, so If I have change I usually just give it all just in case.

    I know I am lucky and I know what I had to do to get myself where I am, but I am not sure everyone believes in themselves. I hope I am never down and out. I could not imagine myself in that type of situation. Perhaps I would be too stubborn to be reduced to begging, but who knows what is going on with their situation, so I just give just in case. I guess I pay so I do not have to question myself for not giving.
  • Minger
    Minger wrote:
    Kodi,
    Just playing devil's advocate here, but maybe by paying you're supporting the "beggar pimp" (It's actually highly organized crime as I understand it, they trick people to come work for them and then enslave and cripple them so that they get more money). If no one gives money to beggars, then the handlers will stop forcing them to beg, right?
  • Erik Aleksander Aas
    Whether or not a beggar works for some "beggar pimp" or not, we have to face the fact that the poor fellow is in that situation! Giving him one kuai would definitely make his life a little bit easier, whichever way you look at it. Imagine this poor guy does not make his quota for the day and get's the shit kicked out of him by his handler. Don't be cheap guys, spare a kuai.

    Question for you all. Do you just not give money to beggars in China or do you just not give money to beggars in general? I've been to many countries in the world and most beggars I've encountered are sincerely just that, beggars. No organised crime ring etc. etc. Back home I took a beggar home once, let him take a bath at my house, gave him food and some of my old clothes. His story was quite interesting. This guy was actually an accountant who lost his wife and two daughters in a car accident. He was the driver, fell asleep behind the wheel. He started drinking heavily and soon became an alcoholic. Everything spiraled downwards from there. Lost his job, house, car and soon found himself on the street. By the time I met him he was living on the streets for eight years.
    Some beggars might not deserve your pity, some do - for 1 kuai that's a chance I'm willing to take.
  • 随便叫兽
    随便叫兽 wrote:
    It should be mentioned that in the US, the situation is complicated by the closures of all the state mental hospitals in the 80s. A lot of those people ended up on the street.

    A lot of good job training will do for an unmedicated schizophrenic. The gesture is as meaningful as giving change, anyway.
  • Minger
    Minger wrote:
    Vincent,
    I don't give money in the states or the UK, because I know there's no reason to be homeless there. There are homes and programs to help them.
    In China, the guy making his quota encourages the boss to put more people on the street since they're making him money. Definitely a vicious cycle either way.
    I am very happy to give food or clothes to anyone on the street though. Just not money.

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