Residential panhandling ... follow-up to the 'homeless' postI just wrote a note to another blogger who posted about people asking for money in her neighborhood.
How are you? I almost posted another comment to your homeless post with an entirely different story.
The other evening, I was sitting with a neighbor on her front porch. She told me someone knocked on her front door close to midnight on July 4th, but she didn't answer. When I asked if she saw who it was, she said she saw a man in shorts running (moving quickly) down the street.
Soon after she told me that, a man in shorts and a shirt, slightly out of breath, came walking across her yard up to her front porch. He looked a little sweaty, but not like he'd been working out.
It was a hot evening. He said, "I'm the man who knocked on your door the other night" (July 4th). It was July 12th or 13th by this time. "I'm your neighbor." He could have been a new neighbor. People move in and out of houses at the far end of the street. He did not appear to be without access to laundry or shower facilities.
He said, "I just moved in that day... down the street ...432." He asked if we could "help a neighbor out." My neighbor immediately began to be rude to him. She stood up and began talking at him, not to him. She would not look him in the eye.
She said, "Around here, it's work first, pay later." He said he wasn't looking for a handout and asked what work she had. She said she has work to be done, "but no tools to do it today."
The man said he'd been doing stress tests that day (for his heart). He said he was locked out of the house, "and, my wife is at work." He said, "I used to work for the railroad." I was not sure what those three pieces of information had to do with each other.
My neighbor said, "Get a screwdriver. Open a window." He said, "I have an alarm system." She said, "You can turn it off when you get into the house." He did not reply to that.
"Can you call your wife?" I asked. He'd said his wife was at work. "Can she come home early and let you into the house?" He said that would not be possible, b/c she works in the next town and rode with someone else. "When will she be home?" I asked. "Not until 930pm," he said. There was a reason why each offered solution would not work.
I wondered why he couldn't just sit at the local Mexican restaurant 3 blocks away (there are actually 3 that are about 3 blocks away, North, South, and West). That's what I would have done. I certainly would not have been out talking to people I didn't know asking if they could "help a neighbor."
At this point, he still had not made the money plea. So, I was willing to keep listening to this tale he was spinning. I try really hard not to assume the worst about people until they've already proven that they cannot, or should not, be trusted.
My neighbor was responding with the no-eye-contact + rude-voice = "Get lost!" response. I kept asking questions, looking for the truth.
This uninvited guest began adding bits of information to his story. He said when he worked for the railroad he was a track inspector. He said he recently moved her from (another town).
He said his car had a flat tire, and all he needed was some fix-a-flat and he'd be able to drive to where his wife was working to get the house key. I asked where the car was. I wanted to see the car with the flat tire.
It was not down the street at the house he'd just moved into. It was at the MacDonald's a few blocks away just off the interstate ... because you know how people will do things to cars left by the highway. The car was a Mercedes. The more he talked, the more unnecessary details embellished the simple hustle.
By this time, my neighbor was so disgusted she went into the house without a word and locked the door behind her, leaving me on the porch to talk to this stranger in the front yard.
Since I'd been left, I got up to leave, too. This guy said he almost had enough (money was the unspoken word) for some fix-a-flat. He said he had someone to take him to the auto parts store.
I was still thinking about the heart stress test, the railroad job, the wife at work in the next town, the house he'd just moved into, and the Mercedes in the MacDonald's parking lot with a flat tire.
I was out to the sidewalk by this time, and he was trying to close the deal and get some cash from me. I told him, "This is a pretty poor neighborhood. I don't have any money either. But, I have roadside assistance. I'll be glad to help out with your car."
At this point, he began to move down the sidewalk in the direction opposite the one I was taking. He said he'd accept my offer if he couldn't get the fix-a-flat.
I walked back to my house, and, in good sleuthing form, I followed up on the clues I could verify. I got into my car and drove down the street looking for the house he said he'd just moved into. I did not see a number like the one he'd named at the start of the visit. Then, I drove to the MacDonalds, and circled the parking lot. There was no Mercedes. There was not a car of any make or model with a flat tire. After that, I drove over the interstate and down the road beside it to look for any parked vehicles in that area. None.
Satisfied that I'd given the man every possible benefit (while satisfying my own curiosity), I returned to my house. Later that evening, I missed a phone call from the neighbor I'd been visiting. She left a message. "I hope you didn't give money to that man!" That was the nicest thing she said. She told me later that when she described the encounter to her daughter, she said the same man has been at her workplace asking for money.
My neighborhood has a known problem with people walking through and asking for money. I am probably spared the problem of unwanted knocks on the door and solicitations for money, because I keep my front blinds closed, and I use a side door. Most of the time I avoid that problem.
Related - Homeless and Hungry , NIMBY