Infant Panhandlers In Your Neighborhood
January 16, 2011 - Southern California Beach Cities of Los Angeles
Over the last few months in many of the South Bay Beach Cities of Los Angeles, I have come across more and more women with children panhandling outside of busy locations in my neighborhood. In my heart I has always felt that helping those in need is a way I can make the world a better place, but have really started to question the nature of the present group of women and children panhandlers. Do these people need your help or do they need the cash out of your wallet?
On your normal busy work day you are on the way to your local post office during lunch to mail a few letters and purchase some stamps. You park your car and walk towards the door, where you come across an unusual sight for you neighborhood. You see a young woman sitting near the entrance with a child laying still in her arms. The child appears asleep and is unresponsive. The young woman speaks to you in a soft voice about needing help and holds her sign up so you can read what you cannot fully understand over her "please, help, please, help" pleadings. The sign is written on a piece of cardboard (a really small piece of cardboard as if cardboard were in short supply) using a black marker to write out some need of help for food, the need of money due to having no job or place to live, and having several children to take care of. You look at the crudely written sign, the small child, and wonder what can you do to help, is there anything you can do to get this young woman out of her present situation? You decide that you are willing to help and give her a few dollars. And you then go about you busy day, knowing that you have done something good out of the kindness of you heart, you are a great person indeed.
But did you miss something in the story I am sure you are familiar with? You and countless others will make that same heartfelt assistance of a few dollars at a time. Your gift is repeated by your neighbors with no knowledge of who else will come by or who has already given. You have done your part to make your neighborhood a better place. You go about your own busy schedule knowing that your money will allow this woman and child to survive one more day. Or have you made your neighborhood a better place for outsiders to come and ask for money because they now know where all of the helpful people are?
Let's look at the accounting of a day of a neighborhood panhandler. For the most part you will see panhandlers at most tourist locations in any large city. They are usually without children and generally look like they really need some assistance. Why is it that in your neighborhood you will see a young woman and child together sign in hand? Is the child to generate more emotions from you? Does the child create a need and desire to help those who cannot speak from themselves? Do you find that you would normally only give the woman a look, but now that she has a non-responsive child in her arms, you cannot walk away with a good conscience without handing her a few dollars? And how much is that few dollars equal too? If that is only ten helpful people an hour, this young woman and child just made $20 an hour tax free (average only $2 per person). A really busy location can generate $40 per hour from only 20 people stopping by, that is one person every three minutes donating the same $2 per person average. So even at the lower traffic rate that is $120 in 6 hours or $600 in 5 days tax free. You would need to make about $30 per hour at your job to make the same amount due to the deductions taken out of your pay. And I am talking about the low end, what if you saw what I saw today? This afternoon at the Post Office I was witness to a woman and child collect $10 from four people ($5 from the first person, $3 from the second, and $1 each from the next two people to walk by) all in ten minutes (keeping this average the woman and child would make $60 in an hour). This is not a low payoff with no results, the Silent Child Panhandler generates so much cash from so many of us that want to help.
My question to you is: What can you do to help? Without a doubt a woman and child can generate more funds panhandling at your neighborhood Post Office over any downtown street corner of any large city. In a city downtown you might expect to see a panhandler. But what about a few blocks away from your house? A woman and child in need? A small child creates so much emotion that many people can't just walk by without wanting to help in some way. I have seen so many conversations by those trying to help where in the end they find that the young woman will not accept food, she will not accept shelter, she will not seek social aid, she does not want city or local government help, and she really only wants cash not assistance. My purpose to to enlighten the general public that there may be other ways to help other than through monetary forms only.
Take action to help make your neighborhood a better place for everyone. Make a call to action to allow for the amount of assistance to be provided. What you can do:
1. Call Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)
Child Protection Hotline
3075 Wilshire Blvd., 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Cleo Robinson, RA (213) 639-4818
Reception (213) 639-4840
2. Call Local DCFS Office
2325 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, CA 90501
Tedji Dessalegn, RA (310) 972-3114
Reception (310) 972-3111
3. Report Child Abuse
To report child abuse in Los Angeles County, California, contact the Child Protection Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
The purpose and mission of the Child Protection Hotline (CPH) is:
During the evening, at night, on weekends and on holidays CPH will forward the referral to the DCFS Emergency Response Command Post to provide protective services to children in life threatening situations. At ERCP, Children's Social Workers (CSWs) are on duty 24 hours to immediately investigate calls of abuse and neglect. Supervisors are also on duty for case consultations and supervision to the CSWs in the field.
Situations that require an immediate in-person assessment are quickly assigned to the ERCP.
As stated earlier you will see these women and children at the busiest high traffic locations only during the busiest times just sitting or standing at the entrances of Churches, Post Offices, Department Stores, Food Stores, etc. during the day only. From my conversations with my church's ushers and friends it appears the women and children are working as group. They are dropped off near their intended location, arriving in vans or trucks driven by men who bus them around like sheep grazing the open grass fields. They will be at my church before and after mass service, only when people are making their way in or out, they are not there during the services. I will assume that during their absence they are in front of other locations working to get every dollar they can, with the vehicles moving the women and children from one location to another. They also make sure they have enough women and children to cover all entrances or high traffic areas.
There is not a lot information on the Internet about the local City Governments or Police Departments dealing with panhandling or with the type of scam involving children, but it is my hope to help start the discussion of what we can do to prevent people from taking advantage of my neighbors. My story also asks the question if the women and children are even related, as I cannot believe a mother would use her own child in this manner for money. I do not refer to the woman and infant in my photograph as mother and child and I do believe it is part of the set up. Let's all take quick action to make a difference for all of us, don't wait for someone else to do it for you, be an agent for positive change.