Beggars & Scam Artists, Chicago
If you're uncomfortable with panhandlers or just annoyed by them, then you should mentally brace yourself for a lot them if you're staying near downtown. I've found that saying 'I'm sorry' or 'no thank you' when confronted is very disarming. Ninty-nine percent of the time that does the trick. In the rare case that they're really persistant, you can remind them that panhandling is illegal in Chicago and suggest that you both visit the nearest officer to verify that fact. Then again, you can just throw them a few coins if you're feeling generous.
In two parts.
“White liberals” and social UNrealists, don’t bother writing to slag me, I offer no apologies.
(By the way, if you don’t know what I mean by “white liberal,” check out the classic Lenny Bruce skit, “How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties” Learn more here: http://www.xmag.com/archives/3-12-jun96/article1.html)
I’ve been to lot of big cities and it is my *opinion* that many of the panhandlers of the Loop and Museum Campus areas are some of the most rude, pushy, ungrateful people I’ve had the misfortune to deal with. As for danger, remember: 1.) these are the most visited parts of the city so you probably won’t have to worry about being alone or isolated from safety and 2.) they probably mean you no harm. Still, if one beggar is particularly pushy immediately head for an established business, busy street or find a police officer.
Beyond that, I would like to draw your attention to Streetwise, a support network for Chicago’s homeless. This small newspaper, published once a week, is sold for $1 around the city. Sixty five cents goes directly to the vendor and many have used Streetwise to escape poverty and homelessness, the rest is split between running the paper and various empowerment programs. Defintely a worthy enterprise.
Vendors are required to wear and ID badge and conform to a standard of behaviour, which does not allow rudeness or pushy selling. Check for that ID, it’s not uncommon for stacks of the paper to be stolen and sold by those not in the program.
Oh, and I should mention that some of the panhandlers I’ve met around Wicker Park were pretty cool, interesting people.
Homelessness and poverty are two of the worst social problems in our society; they should never be treated lightly or ignored. But unfortunately there are those who exploit this for personal gain. Here are some of their tactics to be aware of:
The Shoe Shiner. Some fast talker distracts you with his loquaciousness and the next thing you know he’s on his knees shining your shoes. After he’s done you get the news, “That’ll cost you fifteen bucks.” Of course you don’t want to give him that so you tell him you don’t have it. He berates you, tells you he has to pay a commission to the company that provided the cleaning materials, etc... but after some back and forth, he’s “willing” to accept a couple singles.
The Newspaper Boy. You’re walking down the street and someone shoves a periodical into your hands. You keep walking, thinking it's gratis, and then he begins to yell, saying you have to pay for that.
The Candy Seller. Usually seen worming their way around major outdoor, summer events, usually perpetrated by kids. “The sale of this candy benefits a school or youth sports league.” Whatever. Unless you see a badge or a responsible adult, the candy boxes have been stolen from area freight depots. Do you think any responsible organization dedicated to youth would let kids wander around, unsupervised at major events? Plus, at two bucks a candy bar it’s a rip off.
Tips for dealing with these annoyances: Simple, tell them to get lost. They try to play off your emotions and make you feel bad, as if you owe them something. After handing a fellow a few quarters I actually had a beggar suggest I give him five dollars. I responded with, “How ‘bout I give you a big load of nothing?” and added something I cannot repeat here. Realize that many of the most aggressive beggars do this as a “career” and make a decent “living” this way. Regular newspaper exposes can attest to this.
Some place in the city that you might go to will be rougher then others. Remember that for $5 you can have any bum go get you a taxi. No matter what kind of area you are in. That way you can stay inside were it is warm and safe. Make sure you give the Bum the money when he returns with the car not before. I am attaching Flash taxi's number for you. If you call them they will pick you up