An Increase in Panhandling?

I’m not sure if it’s my imagination, or if there really are a lot more people out on the streets and on the Metro begging for money.

There seem to be a lot more, in a variety of forms, than I was aware of earlier in the year — and certainly much more than in Albany.

There’s the man seated almost every day along a fence near the Silver Spring Metro station, which I walk by en route from my bus stop to the office. There’s also often a changing cast of characters seated on a wall outside a government building across the street from where I work.

Then there are the more enterprising folks: a woman walking up and down a street just before a traffic light, holding a cardboard sign about losing a job and not having enough money to pay her rent and feed her kids. It was an incredibly hot day and I was one of the people who felt badly enough for her to hand a bill outof my car window while stopped for a red light.

There have been people on the Metro soliciting for various causes: I was impressed with a teen’s nerve to ask for money from customers for some youth club (he carried a laminated description of the program for proof) and very inspired by one guy’s charismatic speech in a Metro car about his bout with homelessness earlier in his life and then the sales pitch to buy an issue of Street Sense, the daily paper written by homeless folks. I gave both of them a donation.

Last week there was a guy seated in front of me on the Metro and he leaned back and asked for a quarter, to get him off the train where he wanted to go. (DC’s subway system charges by distance from your starting point, not a set fee.) I only had a dollar and eventually gave it to him.

Another guy who got my sympathy was seated outside Union Station on a scorching day, with an umbrella over his head to keep himself from getting the worst of the heat. He was a really wise guy, cracking jokes with me about how he could bake a pizza on the bricks he was sitting on.

I keep telling myself I ought to keep a dollar handy in my pockets for such encounters, since most of the time I just walk by people because I don’t feel like rummaging through my bag to find something when the request comes.

Charitable donations by the individual request rather than to organizations does seem more personal in a warped way.


About mariannedc

I just moved from Albany, NY, to the Washington, DC, area and many friends and former co-workers want to hear about my life here. So this seemed like a great way to do that.
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