The Corner

Techniques on the Street

Over in Impromptus today, I have an item on the begging techniques of the homeless (or “homeless,” if you prefer). I say, for instance, that everyone claims to be a veteran. And can they all be veterans? Are there panhandlers who are not veterans? I would give with gladness and relief to someone with a sign saying, “Not a Veteran. But Help Me Anyway.”

A reader writes,

I was listening to the radio, and the topic was homelessness. A vet called in passionate about the subject. He said the two things a vet never forgets are where he trained and where he was first stationed. The caller said he has yet to receive a coherent answer to those questions from a “homeless vet.”

Kind of interesting. I also mention, in my column, the most charming thing I ever heard a panhandler say: “Would you like to contribute to the United Negro Pizza Fund?” I did. That man was in Washington, D.C., I believe. A reader writes to say that he knew such a man in Albany, N.Y. – a man who used that line regularly. “I wonder who is training beggars to use that clever approach.”

Finally, a different reader writes, “You’ve reminded me of a sign I saw in San Francisco. The man said he wanted money for ‘alcoholism research.’” That’s the spirit! (No pun intended.)

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