When people who panhandle talk about the experience, whether it is to reporters or researchers or anyone else who will take a few minutes to talk to them—they mostly talk about the fact that they panhandle so they can pay for food, basic supplies, or a place to stay for the night. They talk about it as a humbling experience. Working a job would be better, they say, but they cannot get one without an address and place to shower. They describe how painful it is when person after person walks by or steps over them. People won’t look them in the eye and fail to acknowledge their humanity.
Some panhandlers lament the fact that no one carries cash anymore. With debit cards, ApplePay, and other efficient ways that people buy coffee, fast food, groceries, and everything else, many people rarely carry cash and have few coins jingling in their pockets. According to one panhandler, “They say they got credit cards…I can’t eat with their credit cards.”
As one man said to a reporter from SFGate: “Beg, borrow, or steal…I’d rather beg or borrow.” Panhandling was the only way he could afford food. This story shows the dilemma people are often caught in: beg and face the wrath of the police, businesses, and angry passers-by, or steal food and basic supplies to survive.
Another man stood outside a grocery store trying to ask for money for a toothbrush. Many people gave him food, but no one gave him the small amount of money he needed to go inside and get a toothbrush.