Can Helping Out be Hazardous?

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I was reading Arsenius post over at Living Out There blog (update:  blog is no longer published), in which he describes passing by stranded motorists on the freeway, and feeling bad about not being able to help out because of safety concerns.  This is such a valid concern these days, I felt compelled to write a post about it.

Last week in the local news there was a story about three female criminals who were using their kids to get homeowners to open their doors.  The kids would stand in front of the door, ring the doorbell and pretend to ask for help to find a puppy that “wandered off.”  The residents would feel sympathy, open the door, whereupon the criminals would pounce on them, beat them and steal their credit cards and valuables.  Usually the victims were elderly.   Within an hour or so, the thieves ran up the credit cards buying purses and clothes on a shopping spree.  These people are pretty despicable, using their kids to gain entry, and training their kids to rob people.   These criminals prey upon the kindness of people, who will now think twice about helping someone out.

I see many panhandlers while I am out driving, many of them standing out in street corners and collecting change while the light is red.  Sometimes they are youths wearing orange vests that try to hand you a note asking for charity while you are stopped at a light.  Alone or with kids, I never roll down my window, as I am always wary about safety.   Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against helping out or giving to charity.  I prefer to donate at Church or give to food bank, children’s hospitals or other organizations than give out cash to panhandlers.

It’s becoming more of a dilemma on how to be a Good Samaritan and be safe at the same time.  The worsening economy will only increase crime, and unfortunately, the basic trustworthiness of people will come into question.  I once read on Rawles’ Survival Blog that in a disaster type situation the way to give would be through anonymous means or through a 3rd party.  We are not in a full blown disaster currently but maybe we are already in a time when being openly charitable and trusting can become a safety hazard.   Use your best judgement when stopping to help, and please be aware of any potential dangers around you.  If you choose to give anonymously, give through an established charity or thoroughly check the background of the organization that you are contributing to.



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  1. In any time when there is much poverty, it pays to be careful. My grandfather told me a story once about going on the road in 1912 with his cousin in a Model A they had bought together. They were passing through Louisiana when they saw another car pulled up beside the road with the hood. Cousin Henri was driving, and he put his foot on the break to stop and help.

    But Grandad got a bad feeling about it, and reached his foot over, kicked Henri’s food off the brake and pressed down hard on the accelerator. As they sped past the “broke-down” car, two men with guns leapt out and shot at them.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    1. Hi Anne, even though that story was from 1912, it sounds like it’s right out of the evening news. Your Grandad was smart to trust his gut feeling. It sure hasn’t changed much!

  2. Two things to remember when helping out. First, studies have shown that many panhandlers have homes and cars, they just prefer “begging” to working. Secondly, openly giving can have repercussions sometimes. During the Depression it was common with some indigents to mark the property of someone who was an “easy touch” so others could take advantage of that generosity as well, letting them know if they could expect a handout, meal or place to sleep. We never give money to panhandlers since taking cash from your pocket also lets a potential thief know where you keep it and those in legitimate need have lots of places to go for help. We give to those groups instead.

    1. Hi Mike, I always suspected not all panhandlers are destitute, did not know there have been studies done proving that many are not. I agree with you there, you do become more vulnerable when handing money out, since now it’s A. known you have some cash, and B. where you keep it. thanks for the comment!

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