By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Panhandling is profitable so take out the profit
Placeholder Image
Call me heartless, but I've had it with beggars who are popping up around Ceres with increasing regularity.

Panhandling is not just happening in Ceres, of course. It's happening everywhere I travel lately in Central California. The conflagration of beggars is overwhelming me so much personally that I couldn't afford to give to everyone if I wanted.

It's getting to the point that I can scope out an area and accurately predict if I will be hit up for money between the door of my car and the door of the store. Sometimes I'm approached before I get out of the car as the panhandler spies me rolling up in a newer car and bends over to peer into my window -- a total violation of my personal space (last week at the Del Taco on Monte Vista in Turlock.) Just because I have a newer car - which drains my budget by $386 per month - does not mean I have disposable cash to hand to people who didn't earn it. How crazy is it that we are all expected to work for money while beggars opt to annoy the rest of us for money because they are unwilling to work? You mean to tell me that the 50-something guy walking the center median with sign in hand really cannot work for money? Anyone with a work ethic - and who shies away from the lazy way out -- can find ways to work for his money, whether cleaning yards or doing other chores.

With a big chunk of our paychecks already going to the redistribution of wealth, there are plenty of government agencies doling out taxpayer-funded assistance so why give more?

There are exceptions to my no-giving-rewards-to-bums rule. If I sense the person is truly in need, and hungry -- and not looking for me to fund his next bottle or baggie of meth -- I have offered help. Once I shared a lunch and tears with a young man who truly was in need at the Taco Bell by the Modesto arch. But then again, I once got burned when buying a hungry woman food at the Hatch Road McDonald's and she got a little carried away with ordering and pushed my generosity to the limit.

On Christmas eve, a gentleman extracted $3 from me at USA Gasoline on Oakdale Road in Modesto. He was either really in need of money for gas or had crafted and rehearsed a very convincing story. He approached me totally disarmed with his wallet flipped open and looked rather sheepish and embarrassed as he started out "I feel like a (expletive deleted) panhandler." He proceeded to give the specifics of why he needed $20 to buy gas. Not looking like your typical doped-out beggar, he gave so much detail that his plea seemed plausible. He had his drivers' license out to "prove" he was a San Jose resident and said he was working a job locally and needed to get to the yard in Milpitas before heading home." All I had was $3 cash but the lady on the other side of the gas island overheard the conversation and offered to make up the $17.

As I drove off, I wondered why this working stiff didn't have a credit card for emergencies to buy gas.

Just because a story is convincing doesn't mean it's real. I read an internet story of one man who was visiting Reno when he "got taken" by an older female panhandler. With a grandmotherly countenance, she had approached him with a story about how she needed $17 to complete her bus fare to Memphis, Tenn., and that the bus was leaving in less than 30 minutes later and if she missed the bus she would have to sleep on the streets all night. He handed the woman a $20 bill. He realized that he was the "sucker" when he later bumped into the same lady who approached him with the same exact story. After he told her "you got me once, but not twice," she angrily yelled at him, saying to go check with the bus station if he didn't believe her.

In general, I'm burned by beggars. About two years ago, while talking with friends outside of a downtown Modesto church, a young man approached and asked for money so he could feed his family. We engaged him in a conversation and asked where his family was. He waved his hand behind him in the dark and vaguely referred to some car off in that direction. That's when he was offered a meal on the spot to his family if he just brought them back. He protested, saying, "Can you just give me money instead" before saying he'd return but never did. Even Christians are told to be "cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves" in situations with others.

We need to rethink what generosity is. It's no different than feeding the bears in Yosemite. As long as bears get handouts from people, bears won't do the work (foraging) that enables them to eat what they're supposed to. The dependence is not a healthy one.

If everyone stopped the impromptu handing of cash to beggars, beggars would stop violating Ceres laws that prevent them from panhandling near traffic, such as atop the Hatch Road overpass. Beggars wouldn't beg, of course, unless it was profitable. One Oklahoma City panhandler told a TV station there that he made $60,000 in 2011 standing with a cardboard sign asking for money. He admitted to police there: "I'm lazy and I made $60,000."

If you want to help - and I think we all do - here is food for thought. Take the money you would give a beggar and contribute that money to the Modesto Gospel Mission (P.O. Box 1203, Modesto CA 95353-1203). Tell the next person who hits you up, "I left my money with the Modesto Gospel Mission. They can give you a meal and a warm place to sleep." If everyone who gave to a beggar gave to the mission, they'd be able to fulfill the demand and change more lives. But something tells me beggars aren't looking for life changing messages with room and board. They want to feed addiction.

If Cereans vowed to not contribute to the drug habits of the vast number of beggars in Ceres for, say three or six months, panhandlers would scurry elsewhere. As long as we see windows roll down and arms extending cash, beggars will never hit that "bottom" they need to "hit" that forces them to take a different tact in life to find subsistence.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at