This isn't really a crank, but a concern. Has anyone else noticed the uptick in "exit beggars?" I mean the people who hang around near the expressway exits with "Homeless, Hungry, Please Help" cardboard signs. I used to just see them at an occasional exit -- now I see them at nearly every exit on the Kennedy, and at many intersections, standing in the cold, weaving between cars, shaking the cup.
These folks are worrisome, because they can be pretty insistent on going from car to car and I worry about hitting someone. It also looks like an awfully cold and dangerous way to make a living. I'm guessing the increase is due to the economy, and perhaps the shortage of other resources (see story here). I used to give money, but because I've lost friends to alcoholism, I decided it's a bad idea to give cash to people you don't know -- in case they're using it to feed addictions. It's like giving people money to help them poison themselves. So when I can remember, I keep a box of granola bars under the front seat, so I can give that away instead. The bars go fast -- I gave away two just going back and forth to work Wednesday. And, yeah, sometimes I just keep the window rolled up and look straight ahead.
I called the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to see if they've noticed an increase in this kind of begging. They said they haven't monitored this -- but wouldn't be surprised. Meanwhile, I was wondering, how are other drivers handling this?
Since I first posted this entry, I found out from Illinois State Police Lt. Luis Gutierrez that the police prosecutes "exit beggars" for improper walking on the roadway and improper solicitation of business on the roadway. If someone is a repeat offender, he or she may also be charged with trespassing. Gutierrez said people who want to complain about people begging on the exit ramps can call *999 or 911.
The number of people cited for soliciting business on a roadway has crept up since last year. In 2008, 14 people were cited in Chicago, and 17 statewide. In 2007, it was three in Chicago and six statewide.
For walking on a roadway, the number is down, with 12 receiving citations in Chicago this year, and 61 receiving them statewide. In 2007, the number was 19 in Chicago and 70 statewide.