Beggars in Boise

During the course of running a few errands …. a bit of grocery shopping, mailing the check with traffic ticket from the Garden City police, I ran across several people begging.  I don’t know what else to call it.  Standing on a street corner with a handwritten cardboard sign with an explanation that “anything will help” isn’t my idea of a job.  Truthfully it’s starting to bug the shit out of me and I’m not sure why.

First stop was Winco on Front Street.  There’s usually someone there whenever I go just as there is at the Winco on Fairview. Today, the older gentleman at the exit leading to Front looked the vintage stereotype of a wino.  Then I was on an apparent aimless mission to buy stamps from the USPS and ended up at Ustick & Cole USPS where I saw these two women.

One woman was on the northeast corner of Ustick – looking east down Ustick – with a piece of  cardboard that read, “just lost job. single mom of 3. anything will help.”  She was mouthing ‘please’ at the car in front of me.

Directly across the street was another woman on the northwest corner, facing north towards Northview with a similar sign.  In the space of a 5-10 minutes, the time it took me to go into the postal office & purchase stamps from the machine, they had switched to the southern corners.

One mid-May afternoon driving west down Fort I rounded the curve onto Harrison with the intent of turning onto Resseguie.  There on the southwest corner was a woman with a cardboard sign with her simple message: ‘Single Mom, unemployed, 3 kids.’  As the only cash I usually carry is in my ashtray for incidentals (coffee, ice cream from Fanci Freeze or Delsa’s) and only having a couple of dollars, I flipped a U-turn & went back just in time to see a woman with three kids in an SUV hand $$ out through the passenger window.  After handing over those few bucks I followed the SUV up to Ada  & asked the woman why she had given money.   The message on the sign denoting ‘Mom’ and the fact she was, of course, a mom herself.  I asked her how desperate did she think someone would have to be to stand on a corner with a sign asking for money.  She didn’t know; as long as she had money to help, she would give it.

Last week I saw the same woman on the corner of Resseguie & Harrison with the same sign.  Then today I see these women on the corners of Ustick & Cole with very similar signs.  I don’t know if it’s a scam; I can’t imagine that it’s easier than actually working a job.  I do know that’s it unlikely I’ll give money.

When I was living in Cleveland there were numerous homeless and some periodically asked me for change.  If I had it and didn’t need it for bus or rapid fare, I’d give it. Sometimes folks only asked for a quarter.  I mean once I was reduced to asking some woman I didn’t know on the rapid for a nickel ( 5 cents) to get home.

Downtown Cleveland has Tower City Center. In the basement is the food court with dozens of eateries; it’s also the main switch base for the rapid (RTA). Wandering in to get something to eat, a woman approached me asking for money to get herself something to eat to which I responded, “I’ll buy you lunch, whatever you want.”  A meal deal from McDonalds was it.  While I ate something else, seated several aisles away, I watched as she literally wolfed her food down.  I couldn’t eat that fast if I tried unless I’d hadn’t eaten for days.  I stared, stunned.  And, I lost my appetite.  That’s an indelible memory.

I happened upon this from Mountain Goat.  It’s on a report “compiled last month by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare . . . Idaho Governor’s Council on Suicide Prevention.”  Between 2008 to 2009, Idaho’s suicide rate “shot up” 22%.  It’s also worth noting that ‘shot up’ – literally – Idahoan’s choice of extinguishing one’s life is with the use of a firearm when committing suicide.  Accordingly Idahoans use a firearm in 65% of suicides with 52% being the national average.

Perhaps it’s better to beg than to shoot oneself?  I don’t know.  I’d be interested in what someone else thinks.


5 Responses

  1. Common in the larger urban areas, most around here work as a group and are scamming people.

  2. By here – I guess you mean Boise (or not). Okay – now how do you know they ‘work as a group?’ See, I’ve just never paid that much attention until it became obvious the same people were sitting in the same spot day after day after day.

    The group working thing – I got that impression the other day at Ustick & Cole with the 2 women.

  3. A friend of mine observed one lady working it on State street. While waiting for the light to change, her man, hanging on a fence yelled at her to keep in motion to attract attention. He was drinking beer from a can in a brown paper bag. He knew this cause he was exchanging the empty for a full one in the sack.

    I don’t mention that to diminish what the unemployed are going through. But some people wanna abuse the good nature of others. And that works on a couple levels in this story.

  4. I gave a buck to a person once and a stranger walking nearby said to me that it would only go to booze. My reply was that it didn’t matter what it went to. Giving comes from within me. If it is dependent upon some agreement, then it is at best a contract and at worst coercion. In no manner is it charitable.

  5. DPirate …..

    That’s what friends used to say in Cleveland, too. Once I give it, what is done with it is up to the person who now has it.

    This is just beautifully said: If it is dependent upon some agreement, then it is at best a contract and at worst coercion. In no manner is it charitable.

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