Chicago Sun-Times

Cranky Commuter #2 - UPDATE

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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.

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What can we do about the "exit beggers". Not a thing in all reality. All of the goverment programs, handouts, church programs, and what ever will never work. Take it from me, I know. My ex-wife is one of those "exit beggers" She was a wonderful wife and mother and then one day she decided drugs were better that her family. She constantly rants on how nobody gives her anything. But she has been in re-hab three times and has stolen everything she could lay her hands on. She has been ask to leave countless shelters. She has been given every opportunity to do right but refuses. She will not get help. We as a family have given up after 5 years, we are resigned to the fact that she is beyond any help and will probably die there. We check on her and give a few bucks here and there but it just all goes to drugs so we refuse to give more and be an enabler to her. She has to make the decision to make her life better ot anyone else. And as far as we are concerned the bleeding-hearts who insist on helping are just compounding the problem by helping. Don't give them money, food, or clothes no matter what. It is their decision to be there not yours. I have met many of the "exit beggars" and of the 10 or 12 I have met thay are all the same. They all have a "script" to make sense of what they do to themselves. Most all of them have had more opportunities than the average person to make their life better. But there thay are day in and day out. She is well aware of the programs that are available but she will not take advantage of them. Is she mentally ill? Not in the normal sense she knows what she is doing and will not change.

So from now on remember you are the enablers by giving to these people. You give them a reason to be there and turn down any help, because they can just get by, by being there.

I have turned cranky about this. My concern is there is segments of the population that are not creating jobs for their own communities. I don't care what obstacles are put forth some groups of people have falling for a status quo mentality, don't seem to comprehend it is about political and economic empowerment which helps create jobs for its communities.

First of all, it is more of a hassle if you are a regular CTA rider. I do not want to make the comparison but it is necessary. When driving there are the people who do as your column states, BUT MANY, MANY MORE who do this while trying to navigate your way back and forth to work, school or home on CTA buses and trains. I don't need nor like to be held captive while someone enters mass transit trains and buses and begin their spiel for money. I don't need for them to stand at the entrances or exit-ways to sell me anything! This is why we have legitimate flea markets throughout Chicago, or at least ones in the neighborhoods.

As a regular CTA rider, I used to give advice on how to make some honest money instead of begging for it. There are too many churches in Chicago for anyone to not be able to make a few dollars to keep from begging. Cut their grass, shovel their snow, wash the windows, take out the garbage, mop the floors, clean up the sanctuary - especially after Sunday's or a special event ( a person could make a few bucks simply folding chairs and storing them away ). AND GET A MEAL AND OUT OF THE COLD FOR A FEW HOURS DURING THE DAY TO BOOT!

If the homeless tried washing cars, they could make some money. Many people don't have time to rake leaves any more. Get an old rake and ring door-bells, but the way I view it, WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE ARE ASKING FOR A HANDOUT!

This approach does not work for the majority of them, they simply want you to give money. NO! I have advice to give which will help you feed you daily. It could be a habit, but at least you are not begging.

Please don't anyone state a person with a drug habit will not work!

The same as these financial institutions, Big Three Auto companies asking for a Bailout, this is what SOME homeless people are doing. I reiterate again SOME homeless people are doing this. Yes, I can make this comparison because if I fall victim to losing my job or a terminal illness, I am going to lose every thing. At that point who is going to help me? Scary thought is it?

I understand economics and how the economy works. But one thing that was always told to any of us as children. BE CAREFUL HOW YOU INVEST YOUR MONEY! Well the U.S. auto-makers blew it and now we are going to have even more homeless people. Where will it stop? In other words make the Executives sell their summer, winter and off-shore homes and live in one house which is down-sized to maybe my community and I bet they will hurry up and build a car that gets fifty miles to a gallon of gas in the CITY!

Sorry, I detoured a little there.

But, I barely meet my financial obligations and it becomes annoying when every day on just about every corner or entrance into a store whether regardless of neighborhood, when trying to enter ANY store, someone is shaking a cup or asking for change.

The love for your fellow human being must be a two-way street and though you are down on your luck, you still must get up and keep trying day in and day out! And that does not mean shaking a cup or begging people. It simply makes others ignore them after a hard day.

It is sad, but some have become invisible to me. That is not how I was raised but I have reached a point where I have given all that I have, and the next day the same homeless person is standing there waiting for me to give again. Merely saying get a job is not the answer. The homeless person must contend with the fact MOST DAYS NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE THEM ANYTHING!


Yes, I am a little frustrated by it all and wish I was not....*sigh*... Thanks for letting me vent and rant here instead of to the homeless person face to face.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on December 4, 2008 11:03 AM.

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