01 November, 2007

Pret Panhandler

I was having a quiet crayfish and rocket sandwich, five bean soup and cup of tea at the Pret on St Martins Lane during the long interval of Siegfried yesterday when a youthful panhandler came up to me and asked me for the price of a cup of coffee. I was ferreting around in my coat pocket, when a lugubrious voice from behind me said, Don't give him any money.

While I was wondering whether I should or not, a security guard came up and chivvied the young man off.

Now I don't know what the right thing to do was or not.

The lugubrious fellow said that he didn't like "them" coming into the cafe to panhandle. I suppose it is an irritant. On the other hand we are supposed to help our fellow man.

Oh, I don't know any more. All these moral dilemmas.


Blogger random.thoughts said...

Yeah I agree although check my post about the way I managed to get rid of the man selling dusters out of bread basket in record time. Now I feel bad...

9:00 pm  
Blogger skinny said...

i would happily get him a cup of coffee, but i guess i won't just give him the money for it.

i totally understand why the pret staff don't want him there though, it may not be good for business.

10:35 pm  
Blogger random.thoughts said...

you should give him the money and tell him he has to buy a jar of Nescafe which would give him around 30 cups of coffee at home for the same price as 1 cup of Pret dishwater!


10:38 pm  
Blogger 962 said...

There is a man in the park behind the police station in Arsenal street

His home is the only bench in the park that you can lay on

He never asks for money but on ocassion i will give him a burger

I am led to believe that most of the money ends up in a needle or some other form of reality reducing means.

I will not judge the rights and wrongs but will provide a sandwich without asking.

12:51 am  
Blogger Tiny said...

Panhandling is a tricky thing. Giving money to panhandlers might encourage them to become more aggressive in asking for money. Yet, some of them seriously need help. Are there any charitable organizations that offer some food and shelter to panhandlers?

I agree with skinny - I would offer a cup of coffee or maybe even a small snack, but not money.

2:12 am  
Blogger ulaca said...

After the crayfish & rocket sandwich and the five-bean soup, I have to say the cup of tea was a bit of a let-down.

My hero once replied to someone who said they wouldn't give money to beggars because they'd only spend it on booze, "So would I probably".

4:05 am  
Blogger SMW said...

I'm partly with ulaca on this. Let's face it if reality is so awful then why not help out by mitigating it.
But (there's always a but isn't there) I have seen some incredibly professional and agressive begging gangs operating in Spain in the past - send the cute kids out first to grab tourist's' attention then wham! once your group of suckers is hooked the rest come out to hassle. Great entertainment if you're just sitting and watching but rather frightening if you're on the receiving end.
Used to think the "right" response could be broken down into thinking about what the state/civil society of the place you're in did for the homeless. But it's not that simple is it? Was about to give to a beggar in HK one time when the Chinese friend I was with (who had been sold as a child so knew a few things about the rougher end of life) told me not to as the guy in question had no legs. "How did he get here?" (We were on an overhead walkway at the time) "Was carried by triads - everyone knows he works for triads"

7:31 am  
Blogger random.thoughts said...

I agree with Ulaca's hero. Give 'em the cash to spend it on what they like. Who are we to say "have this coffee because I'd like to think you are destitute but just in case you are a millionaire masquerading as a pauper I can't give you cash".

I'd probably recommend a jar of "Mellow Birds" instead of Nescafe - it goes much further.

7:34 am  
Blogger Troika said...

I would have said, "2 pounds fifty".

7:55 am  
Blogger ulaca said...

My hero was CS Lewis. I think he also meant to convey by his response that somehow by trusting someone who'd lost all hope in life, someone perhaps on the verge of ending it all, you were showing respect to them that a more rational approach would fail to do. In other words, it might make more sense on one level to buy him a cuppa, but the effect that trusting a person in this condition could possible have made it a gamble worth taking if you decide to do anything at all. He also hated slef-righteousness and censoriousness, and I think he'd have avoided the cuppa route for this reason too.

8:21 am  
Blogger dgny said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the Pret policy. I expect they don't let encyclopedia salesmen in to do their business either.

I don't give money to anyone for free. I have to earn the money I have and I expect other people to do the same. If I had money to give away, I would give it to an organisation like Habitat for Humanity, the micro-loan people or those cow-givers, who help people help themselves.

All that said, I would argue that if you want to give someone a handout, it's a hell of a presumption to insist on how it should be spent.

8:56 pm  
Blogger FBT said...

I was thinking as I walked back to Charing Cross station from Gotterdammerung tonight that perhaps the best thing to do is not to give anything, because that way you will accelerate the endgame for them. Either they will find the steel in their soul and pull themselves together, having hit rock bottom that much quicker, or else you will shorten their misery by not delaying their demise.

Or is that just an easy rationalisation not to give people money?

11:43 pm  
Blogger SMW said...

Well done phiz, that's my girl, no namby-pampy soppy liberal hand wringing for you. Such a perfect solution: elegant, neat and rational. I hereby nominate you for the Margaret Thatcher Prize for Social Harmony

12:26 pm  
Blogger 962 said...

Should that not be the Norman get on your bike prize???

2:15 am  

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