How to Combat Fake Homeless People: A Panhandling Protocol

What's Going on in Oklahoma?

If you gave a few bucks to a panhandler on the street, turned the block, and then saw that same beggar drive off in a mint-condition car, you'd be a little pissed off, wouldn't you? Well, that's how this guy felt when he saw the very same beggar woman he paid daily drive up in a smoking-hot red 2013 Fiat at an Oklahoma service station. Boy, he bawled her out so much that his cuss jar could have probably eradicated homelessness altogether. But not really, because throwing money at a problem doesn't make it just go away. 

A video capturing the altercation was uploaded to Facebook by Brandi Newman, who'd also been duped by the shyster. Newman says the driver suckered her in by holding up a placard that read "78 year old widow needs money for food." Well, she didn't say she needed money for gas, did she? Probably because that would have tipped her hand, as gas is not known as one of the three base necessities (i.e. food, water, and shelter). If she could afford a Fiat, she could afford to eat, or at least hock the Fiat to buy food. And because scientists have not yet discovered a method to transmute metal into delicious spaghetti and meatballs, maybe she should focus first on getting some real food.

Looking the Other Way Is Not a Policy, Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The "widow" says that the car wasn't hers; she was only waiting for her son to pick her up. Maybe that's true. But if it's not, it wouldn't be the first time con artists have begged for money they don't need on streets that actually aren't their homes. Because of such issues, I say that there needs to be a protocol put in place to deter phony beggars from taking home money that could have been used to help legitimate people in need. And considering just how bad the issue of homelessness (real and faked) is in America, that protocol needs to be instated right now. 

Panhandling, Policy, and Profit-Hungry People

The major problem with handing money to beggars is the almost complete lack of accountability "“ kind of like paying taxes (where does that money go? Obviously not to fighting homelessness). There are no receipts issued for handouts. It's often a cash or coin transaction. There's hardly any way to track down how your money is spent and what it's used to buy. Unless, of course, you follow this person around all day, which most people are reluctant to do.

This shadow system invites a lot of tricksters who, in many cases, can make more money begging than the average American does working a 9-5 job. One "bogus beggar" said he even makes "100 thousand dollars a year doing [it]" and that he's "the best at it." Actors lay it on thick to profit off people's sympathy and compassion. Does it turn your stomach to know this? Because it sure does mine. 

Who does this? Who raised these people, Boris and Natasha Badinoff? Who would go out of their way to pretend to be homeless just so they can rake in extra cash on the side? Eddie Murphy in Trading Places maybe, but that was made up so it doesn't really count. It's probably the most disgusting thing you can do as a human being, not just because it's essentially defrauding people of their money, but also because it ruins the chances for real needy people looking for some spare change.

Sure Sounds Like a Scheme of Theirs, Getty Images

If this incident in Oklahoma had been a business deal in which there was a buyer and a seller, the widow would have been slammed for all kinds of dirty dealings. If someone handed her money for food "“ the food she explicitly said she needed "“ well then she darn well better be getting some food with her gains. If she uses it for something else, that is a violation of trust and the oral or "acknowledged" agreement between her and the charitable party. 

See, if you hold up a sign that says "Money for food," then that's just like you saying "If you give me money, I will buy food with it." That's kind of like a contract. Now, if someone gives you under $500, you don't need to sign a written document to make it binding. Which means that if this widow beggar actually wrote this on a sign and held up her oath to the people of Oklahoma, she could be liable for violating the terms of her agreement. Now it's serious. At least if a homeless person's sign read, "Why lie? Going to buy weed" the giver knows exactly what they're getting into. Whether or not you fork over some cash, you can't blame the panhandler for dishonestly breaking an agreement. 

These kinds of oral contracts are hard to prove and even harder to enforce, especially on the street level. So this disgruntled giver trying to take his case to the civic court might be overkill and a timewaster. However, that doesn't mean more shouldn't be done to combat criminals against humanity to make bank in this way. Rather, we as the public should be doing more to help clean the streets of these heartless, toaster-driving dirtbags and turn our efforts towards getting real homeless people on the path towards rehabilitation. 

A Four-Pronged Solution

Whoever this old Fiat-driving lady is, she's giving a bad name to beggars all around the world. Homelessness is a significant issue in America, and it doesn't need any impostors like the power-window widow here diverting attention away from it. In fact, 3.5 million people a year face the punishing reality of living on the streets. Nearly 35 percent are families with children, 23 percent are US military vets, and 20-25 percent have a mental illness. These people need help, and they need it bad.

First off, I'd say we stop giving handouts in the form of cash. If food is wanted, give food. If water is needed, give water. This will squeeze out the falsifiers, and also give those truly needy what they truly need. It will also help curb the use of change on alcohol and drugs. If you'd like to give cash, perhaps consider a gift card for a grocery store that doesn't sell alcohol. Also, you can hand over subway tickets instead of bills to enable transportation.

There's More to Give Than Money, Spencer Platt

Second, take that money you would have given to a homeless panhandler to a charity or nonprofit whose mission it is to get people on the street back into houses. Experts have found that real homeless people want a reliable roof over their heads more than anything "“ their own roof. Only then will they consider psychiatric help and getting back into the workforce. Check out Back on My Feet, which is doing some truly admirable things in this regard. 

Third, scrap the panhandling licenses. Many can't afford to pay for those that come with a fee, and others cannot bring themselves to the city council to obtain one. Many might not even have the photo ID required to receive one. It's a bad policy going about fixing homelessness the absolute wrong way.

Fourth, if you know an individual pretending to be homeless just to make some extra cash on the side, or think it's the easy way to make a living, call them out. Don't let them get away with it. Also, spread the word to everyone you know so that their reputation is ruined forever and their face is recognizable everywhere. 

Unlike the conned man in the video who swore to "bust a window" in the Fiat if he ever saw it in the parking lot again, I will say this to all you fakers who might be reading this article on the smartphone you bought with your ill-gotten gains: Your days duping the philanthropic public are nearing their end. If you want to make a fortune lying, stealing, and cheating, then consider a more socially-acceptable occupation like becoming a stockbroker.
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