I grew up in an area that wasn’t the suburbs, but also wasn’t the rural country either. My home was across from a corn field. When I turned 12, my mother would take me into the city to help in the kitchen of Mercy Hospice, which was an eye-opening experience for me.
When I graduated from high school I decided to attend university in one of the worst areas of the city since it had the best journalism department in the state and top 10 in the country. (I studied journalism and music) They called this area the Badlands. Although the campus was safe, walk a couple blocks off and your life could be in danger. We had a couple students during the time I was there killed off campus and my brother was held up a couple of times. I fortunately never ran into trouble, but would have to be escorted to the local grade schools when I helped tutor the kids around the area.
Anyway, there were ALWAYS beggars. At first, I thought they were like the women I helped at the Hospice. I was always giving them my money. I learned very quickly who to help and who not to help, though, and realized that many of them were using the money for drugs or alcohol. My friends and I started to offer them food. There were gentlemen and ladies who truly appreciated the food and I was always happy to help them. A couple of times, I did have run-ins with beggars who became very verbally violent with me when I offered them food and didn’t have what they wanted. For instance, a man began to curse at me when I told him all I had was an iced tea and a banana in my dorm room. He didn’t want that, so I told him him sorry, but I couldn’t give him anything but that. Boy, was he ready to punch me.
My last year of college and the two years of living in the city, I lived in a nice part of the city off campus. There were beggars there as well. Some were schizophrenic, some sane, some very violent, some benign, some just lazy, some just down on their luck. Even now, I never give money anymore to these people as I’ve had bad experiences with some, but will offer food to those that appear to truly need help. Also, you get to know the regulars if you’re in the city enough and know which ones are benign and which ones to stay away from, especially if you are a female and by yourself.