Big-City Guide: The Homeless

Most homeless people annoy the hell out of me.

That sounds harsh, but it’s true.  When I first moved to the city, I felt compassion toward these individuals, especially during the winter time.  Experience, however, has drastically desensitized me.

I live in downtown Chicago.  Rent is more expensive here because it’s a nicer part of town.  This means there are more homeless walking the streets and sitting on the corners; this is where the money is.  Very few days go by where I am not asked for money by someone.  I give them no money, whether I have any change or not (and usually I don’t.  I prefer to use my debit card than carry cash).  A part of the homeless community will accept my “Sorry, I don’t have any change.”  Many will make snide comments as I walk by.

I’ve had homeless follow me, lie to me, yell at me, threaten me, and throw things at me.  I know homeless people who are not actually homeless, but pretend to be so because they earn more money than by actually working a real job.  After a day on the street, these people take the train to their home in the suburbs.  I know homeless people that will use their children or a sob story to beg for money in order to buy food, but when you offer them food instead of money they become angry.  I know waiters and waitresses who cannot wear their uniform outside of the workplace or else they would get mugged by a homeless person for their tip money.

This only serves in making me angry at all homeless people and less inclined to help the next one who comes along, whether they are truly in need or not.  [*Note: I would like to take a brief moment to point out that this is not about every homeless person.  I made a point of saying “most” in my first sentence.  There is one woman outside a convenience store who is none of the things that annoy me about the homeless and I am always nice to her and give her money whenever I have any to spare.]

“Whoa Teri,” you must be thinking.  “Where did all of this come from so suddenly?”

A homeless man and woman came to the desk and handed me a hotel key card.
Him:  “We found this outside and used it to get in through the side entrance.”
They hand me the key.
Him:  “We’re homeless and would like a reward for returning this key.”
I politely thank them and tell them the hotel doesn’t have rewards for finding lost keys.  The woman begins to get angry about this, but the man cuts her off.  He then launches into a five minute soliloquy about how he was just released from the hospital and his finger was amputated.  He holds up his bandaged and four-fingered hand for effect, and asks me if I can give him money to get the prescription filled from the hospital.  I don’t bring money to work, and tell him as much.  He then tries the reward route again, getting as angry as the woman next to him.

Him: “I want to speak to your manager.”
Me: “I am the manager.”
Him: “I want to talk to Security.”
I point behind him to the Security guard who is watching him like a hawk.  (One thing I’ll say about Security, they are on the up and up when it comes to homeless people coming into the hotel.)
The couple walk over to the guard and begin their story on him.  He tells them the same thing I did.  At this point they begin shouting, demanding they get something for giving us the key.  I am trying to help other guests and they come back to me, yelling and slamming their fists on the desk.  Security escorted them out, but I could hear them yell all the way down the hall to the outside doors.

Another typical night.

4 thoughts on “Big-City Guide: The Homeless

  1. Man…homeless people for the most part annoy me too…
    actually they kinda scare me to be honest because they have nothing to lose so they will do whatever they want…*sigh*…

  2. Many times I have been taken in by people with a long, drawn out story about why they need money. Almost always, I hear somebody else who encountered that person in the same area with the exact same story on a different day.
    Whether I give somebody money largely depends on my state of mind. I hardly ever do it anymore b/c of similar bad experiences though I have never been chased or had things thrown at me.
    My weakness is people on metro platforms. They usually ask me for a specific amount and it's usually less than a dollar. Because I can't really leave the platform, I usually give it to them. Plus, I've been at the exitfare machine without any cash whatsoever and I know what that's like.

  3. I hear you. I have no problem helping someone who really needs help. I wish there was an easy way to weed out people who could do more for themselves but choose not to. Because of John's job, he has worked with homeless people and become familiar w/ the services here in Phoenix and is less and less convinced that so many people simply don't have a choice but to be homeless.
    People are weird about the homeless. I wouldn't give money to a relative or friend if I knew that person didn't handle money well. Yet we often feel we need to do this for complete strangers.
    I've thought of maybe buying grocery store gift cards for $5 or $10 to give when someone looks like they really need it. Grocery stores usually have deli sections where a person could buy a healthy meal. Then I'm not giving away cash to someone I don't know.

    • i thought about the gift card thing, but for Starbucks. They sell deli sandwiches and have hot chocolate. I should get a giftcard and give it to that woman next time I see her. She's really nice.

What do you think?