Lots of beggars in Paris

We were recently in London for a week & Paris for a week and I must say, we saw lots of beggars all over in Paris. They were by the Metro exits, near street corners & by the large churches. I don't recall any in London. I don't know what's up with that. And I'm sure they rely on the tourist donations because the locals just keep on walking without even looking at them. We kind of adopted one near our apartment in Paris, giving him a euro or two almost every day and our last day we had some leftover food (bread, juice, peanut butter, cheese) which we would have had to throw away so my husband gave it to him. He seemed to appreciate it. I'll be willing to bet he'd never gotten any bags of food given to him before. Oh well, it seemed like the right thing to do with it.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
7973 posts

Bless you for your kindness to the man you describe in Paris.

How would you compare the beggar/homeless situation in Paris to the situation in most US urban areas? I travel throughout the US and unfortunately there seems to be a lot of it here.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4096 posts

Lots of beggars here in Montreal, I can tell you. As for London, there was a time (15 years ago?) when the place was full of people sleeping on the streets, sleeping rough as they say in the UK. I am not sure what happened to them all .... were they shipped out of town?

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

We live in the country so I don't know about major US cities since I haven't really been to one in awhile. I have to say it was a bit discerning to walk by this poor man every day. He had an artificial leg which he made sure that you saw when you walked by him & like the other beggars, shook his little cup for money. But he always greeted us with Bonjour Madame or Bonsoir Monsoir and said Merci when we put a little something in his cup. I guess we felt guilty living our dream trip while he sat on the sidewalk begging for money.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Diana.. we have beggars here too( in my small city) in Canada.
In Paris there are two kinds of beggars.. those who are like those we have here.. people who have mental illnesses, or drug or alcohol issues, and professional beggars. .

Some locals do "adopt" their local regular beggars.. but they pass by those they consider to be professionals.

France has a good social welfare system .. but those with the issues I mentioned are often not able or willing to take advantage of it.. (homeless people with addictions or mental health issues)

It is hard coming from a small town or rural area to see this.. but it is something we see many places..

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5546 posts

Yes, beggars everywhere. Including my middle class suburban neighborhood. I even had a young man approach me in the grocery store yesterday asking if I had a dollar. He said he had run out of gas. That was the first time I had experienced that.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4096 posts

I always give the young guys begging a buck or two. I had a son who lived on the streets for a while and I hoped some kind person would help him out with a bit of money, so I try to help somebody else's son.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
2197 posts

Diana,

we got alot of them from surrounding states since it is said we are "more generous" here. For whatever reason, the come and stay. we also have "keep Portland weird" so add that to the mix.

I see it as "if you feed them, they will come", just like the Kevin Costner movie.

Its unfortunate that we have that as a issue, but its there.

happy trails.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

I also find it strange how many of these homeless people have pets. We saw several that had dogs & one even had a dog that had 6 tiny little puppies too. I guess everyone is entitled to a pet but if I was in this situation, I don't think I'd try and have an animal too.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Diana I forgot to mention that ,Jere many have pets too and they explain they like to have them for security and companionship. This was a big deal here since shelters do not allow pets and of course the owners refuse to leave them, so almost every year we read about some poor person freezing to death outside in winter(back ,east where it gets very cold not here of course). Some emergency shelters that open on coldest days will now take pets.

Of course ,,some ,use them ,for begging but I think ,most of them love their animals,they may be all they have that they can love and trust.

Norma I am like you on this.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5546 posts

I think pat has a good point about the pets. I see that a lot too. It's possible that the pet is the only thing they have to love and the pet shows them unconditional love in return. I don't tend to give people money, but I have given people outside the grocery store food and I've given people with dogs some dog food if I have some with me.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4096 posts

Here in Montreal there is a wonderful priest, very old now, who looks after the street kids with his "Dans la Rue" organization. The kids can get food, get medical care for themselves and their pets and know that someone has their interest at heart. He, the priest, understands only too well how precious the animals are to these lost boys and girls.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
7973 posts

I like this thread, I didn't think I would at first--but I like it the way it has developed.
Someone giving food to the poor is acting in the best tradition of some of the major religions. Seems to me the world--with its joys and heartbreaks--needs more of this kindness to strangers.
Bless each of you who helps those less fortunate.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1005 posts

I still rem the guy in Bath who had like 5-6 dogs with him. Perhaps he wasn't homeless, he was strumming a guitar if I recall with a hat for donations. Being a dog lover, I chatted for a few minutes and tried to give all the pups a pat on the head. I think he prob looked like the pied piper going thru town, only with dogs instead of rats! And I left him some change. Honestly, if I see any with a dog, I will usually give them some change and ask if I can give the dog a pat on the head... on the street in Milan, the train stn in Paris (that dog really loved the rub I gave him (to the point where I got thinking about my dog at home and got teary-eyed...I'm a softie) - everyone else ignored the young man when he asked for change...OH!...and the man in San Fran with the cat (!) who I had a nice chat with - the cat had a cast on it's leg and he was telling me about what happened. Maybe some think they shouldn't have animals if they can't take care of themselves, but I would bet you they would do anything for these animals...compared to some animals who have a roof over their heads who are ignored and unloved (uh- oh - don't want to get into PETA territory here... ;) ). Everyone needs companionship...and even just talking to these people about their animals perhaps makes them feel less ignored and overlooked...

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2364 posts

Haves and the have nots. Story as old as time. Sadly, global economics in today's world broadens the chasm. Come to LA and see one of America's largest homeless population. Nary a street corner without someone with a sign pleading poverty, Beggars along Hollywood Blvd, Santa Monica and Venice Boardwalk, pestering tourists for handouts. Their lives bundled into shopping carts. Depending on where I'm going I'll often visit fast food drive thru and buy "a meal", to hand it over to the next poor soul I see. NOT the healthiest of food options but by handing out a meal I know that the money spent isn't going for drugs or alcohol. Also carry dog treats and a case of bottled water as well that I'll hand out. My money, my time. Years ago I read this William Penn quote in high school. Has defined my outlook on life ever since.

"I expect to pass through life but once, if therefore there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter nor neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

When I travel I am a tad more leery but will share a Euro or a pound on a occasion.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2884 posts

I don't think given the choice most people would decide to beg for a living. I made the decision a few years ago after passing a homeless person and having one of the grandkids ask me to explain that I would no longer just pass by and act like they didn't exist. And the thought did occur to me as to how they could 'afford' a pet.... but how can one 'afford' to live without anyone to care about:(

Loved the quote above and it is really heart warming to hear of all these small acts of kindness....

Diana... all you have to do in Michigan to find tons of homeless is go to Flint, Saginaw, Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, etc...and let's not forget Detroit. Not many in the country but we have plenty in most cities.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1590 posts

I decided to number of years ago that standing on the street, in whatever weather, and asking strangers for money was harder work than what I do... and deserves compensation.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3614 posts

Huge amount of homeless people and beggars here in San Francisco and in one town here in Marin Co. I give money or offer food some of the time... it depends on each individual and the circumstance.

I was at Union Square in SF and said Hi to a guy sitting on the sidewalk begging and I offered to buy him a hot dog from the hot dog stand nearby. He shook his head and said No, he only wanted a Sprite... So I bought him one and then had a nice conversation with him even though he had some serious mental health issues. He made my day and I'll never forget him. I knew he was someone's son and, as Norma said, if he were my son I would hope someone would be kind to him.

Whenever I see anyone in dire straits I always think... There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Posted by Pepita
Florida, United States
106 posts

I have been wondering about mothers with children begging in Paris. Are these moms really living on the streets with their kids? Doesn't the state provide an option for the children (school with a meal)? I have seen several - both in daytime and nighttime - and I am not sure what to make of it.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
1462 posts

Separating out 'genuine' rough sleepers from the chancers is not always simple.

A recent police round up of beggars in the evening in my home town found that none of those they picked up were homeless, and most had jobs. Some unashamedly donned rags in the evening and weekends after office work to pay for luxuries such as a new kitchen with tax free money.

Now none of this is to say there aren't real rough sleepers out there as of course there are, and the social systems across Europe treat the young in particular very differently regarding provision of housing and shelter. Helping those who help rough sleepers is one option.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1005 posts

To add to what Marco said - I witnessed an amazing transformation of a nattily dressed middle aged fella to a moaning shaking beggar outside Sacre Coeur in Paris. He want from being fine and perky, setting down his paper to kneel on, put out his hat and developed a palsy like that! So now slightly more skeptical of some beggars - I like to think I could tell the truly needy, but I'm sure if I had not witnessed the 'transformation', I would have chucked him some change...

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

I know we have homeless people in the US, plenty of them in fact. But the only beggars I've seen here are the ones that have signs near an intersection that say something like "Mom of 4, need formula & diapers". I've seen lots of those people and have never felt the need to donate to their cause. I guess I live a sheltered life in that I've never experienced beggars sitting on the sidewalks in the US, shaking their cups for money, like I saw in Paris both times I was there (2013 and 2014). But then again, I don't go to many major US cities. We were happy to donate to our beggar on Rue de Vaugirard in Paris every day. It seemed like the least we could do on our trip of a lifetime.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4096 posts

We have all heard those tales about beggars being secretly rich, with big cars and country homes. I have a friend, an otherwise fine person, who will not give to a street person, for that very reason. "They have more money than I have", says the person who holidays in Europe every year, goes on cruises and drinks the finest wines every day at dinner. It's a fine excuse not to give, I say, but everyone is generous in different ways, I guess.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3614 posts

Oh my gosh Diana, come to SF and see all the beggars on the sidewalk and in your face assertively begging for money... Paris is nothing in comparison.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

I'll pass on that invitation Susan but thanks! Our new French friend that lived in our apartment building (age 22 & a student at Paris University) told us that all the beggars have what sounded like the Mob behind them (gangs she said) and if they don't give them enough money each day, they are beaten but I wasn't sure I believed her or not. Our beggar never looked to be beaten. I sure hope that isn't true anyway.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3562 posts

"Paris is nothing in comparision." How true, totally agree, and neither are the other cities in France, not that I have seen anyway. . In the tourist areas say Union Square, it's at every street corner...almost literally. Here in SF it's not just panhandling per se but it's also the manner....aggressive. That may not be so in every case, still it exists and does happen.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20087 posts

I've also seen the "transformation" that Nicole described, but in my case it was in Italy. At one of the rail stations, I noticed an old woman holding a tin cup and dressed in tattered clothes, shaking while she tried to hold herself up with an old twisted wooden cane. I happened to be back at the station a bit later, just in time to see her sprinting up the stairs without the cane, seemingly having just received a miraculous cure for her afflictions. I surmised that it must have been coffee time (Union rules) as she proceeded to the Bar for a beverage.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Pepita ,,

France does have a good social system ,bit the beggars you see with kids, they usually are the Roma people. They ARE allowed to put their children in school bit refuse to do so. Its a huge issue I don't want to get into right now.

Diana if nervous people are scamming at home you could give those women at home who say they need money for formula and diapers some gift certificates. The welfare system in both Canada and states does not give them very !much money and those items are very expensive.

Personally I know I won't miss a few dollars here and there.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
950 posts

On one hand: "... military veterans appear to be homeless at a higher rate than nonveterans, with 29 homeless veterans per 10,000 people, according to a 2013 report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness." http://homelessness.dailycal.org/causes/

On the other hand, some abuse the kindness of goodhearted neighbors: "Jason Pancoast and Elizabeth Johnson, who describe themselves as "affluent beggars," say they are able to maintain a well-fed and well-dressed family by living off the streets..... Pancoast, who estimates he and his wife can make $30,000 to $40,000 a year panhandling, said people have certain expectations of the homeless that are vastly different from the way he tries to live."
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2002739263_panhandlers14e.html

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3832 posts

There are plenty of homeless here in NYC. There was a young man who sat with his dog next to the Duane Reade at 57th and 3rd for several months this winter. My church serves dinner every Thursday for the homeless. And it alternates with another church to serve as a shelter. I agree that they often have signs. They are often veterans or those with various mental illnesses. But it can also be people who are appallingly down on their luck. I had a nephew who was never really homeless, but at age 18 he didn't want to follow Grandpa's rules which he would have had to do if stayed with him when his mother virtually kicked him out after HS graduation. He came very close to being homeless. So, you really never know.

Pam

Posted by trtodd
2 posts

I just got back from Paris last week, and saw plenty of cardboard sign entrepreneurs. I've been to Paris several times over the years, and have always seen beggars, usually near Notre Dame or the other big tourist draws. The new twist that I saw probably 20 times last week was that the cardboard sign wielders had dogs, and the signs asked for money to feed their poor, starving chien. Some of them were adorable puppies, probably from the Paris pound. I hate to think how the end up once their cuteness factor fades...

In the past, children were used in this capacity. I think that's now against the law, so dogs are the new poverty icon of choice.

Posted by Donna
Cleveland, OH
534 posts

Diana, I think what you did was very nice. I was in Paris and southern France a few weeks ago and I really didn't see a lot of homeless people or beggars. I noticed a couple of men sitting on the sidewalks with their dogs (very sad) and some musicians on the metro but that's about it. Not even too many of the petition ladies. I've seen much worse in cities here in the US (for example, NYC, Washington DC, and Portland, Oregon). There was a guy with a "trained" rat in Carcassone but I wasn't sure if he was a beggar or a performer!

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
893 posts

Europe is different than the US when it comes to taking care of the poor. With a socialized system for housing, health care and other needs, I find it highly unusual and cause for skepticism when I see people beg. I understand that the vast majority of beggars are either pretenders or trafficked individuals. I will not perpetuate this problem by feeding it. Please let the authorities deal with it and don't put money into the pockets of their "bosses."

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
2197 posts

@ emily,

i was thinking the same thing, but many feel they are doing good by giving. I remember some BBC news article about some children beggars in either the London/Paris and the new people tracked them and the $$ back to the home country where the recipients of the $$ was living pretty well off in some rather larges dwellings along with some nice cars. Of course the occupants of the nice home didnt care to say anything on why the kids were begging for $$.

there have been some of the same investigations done here where the "homeless" were not as destitute as they would have you believe.

happy trails.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Emily there are still beggers who are not professionals, Canada has just as good social programs as Europe but if you read my posts you would realize that there are still homeless beggers who either refuse services or simply can not access them due to mental illnesses, addictions , or simply because they would rather live on the street with their best friend( their pets) .

Never giving is not compassionate, but I do realize some people either do not understand the complex issues, or are very cynical (because of professional beggars) or feel that people "deserve " to live in hardship because of their belief that people with addictions should "just quit" and " show some willpower"

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2549 posts

Though both Paris and Vienna have changed drastically in the past 20+ years, the situation in Paris is not the same as Vienna. The waiting list for subsidized housing in Paris is ten years long. These are drastic times for a large part of the population. I saw a woman in her sixties today who had set up a display to sell her possessions with a sign that she needed money. This was on rue des Martyres, one of the biggest foodie streets in Paris.

We can't generalize about how people are cared for by the State. Benefits, who benefits and how varies from one country to another. Immigrants have it the hardest.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
893 posts

I think that if you all worked and paid income taxes in Europe at a rate of 40-50% as I do, you would agree that this is more than enough of a donation - particularly to those who choose to decline public assistance, refuse treatment and have pets over homes. I should note that my work here is actually with immigrants and refugees, so I feel very in tune with their situation.

I find it interesting that people on this site often complain about beggars in Europe, but still give them small coins. They wouldn't beg if people didn't give.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Emily, there are very few people on this thread that have " complained ' about beggers. And those of us when "give a few coins" are certainly not complaining.
The theory that not giving will eliminate beggers is a bit silly ,,, but you are entitled to your opinion.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Emily I DO pay taxes similar to yours.. and no,, it does not seem to be an excuse not to help individuals, but to each his own.

And folks with mental illnesses are SICK and part of the sickness may be the inability to make good choices. .. I think that is super sad you do not understand that..
But it must be nice that apparently in Vienna there are lovely places for those with mental illnesses to go and live in and get treatments.. and no waiting lists.. you are so lucky to have that there.. Here we have long wait lists because there are very few places for those with mental health issues to get treatment and accomadation.. residential treatment.. cause of course they would still be on the street then. not like in Vienna right. 
Usually they have to commit a crime to get a bed for the night.. in the lovely jails.. of course their petty crimes usually just get them a jail cell for the night.. and they are booted out on the street the next day .. and no treatment .. but where you live it sounds way better.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3562 posts

Unless I missed it on the visits to Vienna since 2010, the most recent this May, I didn't see panhandlers/beggars and scammers in the places frequented by tourists and where tourist crowds are expected to be seen....Stephansdom, State Opera, Schloß Schönbrunn, Gloriette, Kärntnerstraße, Karlsplatz, etc working the crowds as I have seen in comparable busy tourist places in Paris, such as at the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, etc. Westbahnhof is nothing like Gare du Nord where you see panhandlers working the crowds inside and outside the station. True, on some days they are also totally absent but don't bet on it.

Posted by Emily
Vienna, Austria
893 posts

Pat - the fact that I do give to beggars does not mean that I do not help. In fact, I volunteer with a local organization helping asylum seekers in Austria. Again, there are better ways to help than giving to beggars.

Do not assume I am unfamiliar with mental illness either. My significant other of 20 years happens to be psychologist specializing in addiction.

On a related note to your other post, I said people complain about begging on this site, not the thread.

You don't know me, so please stop the sarcastic attacks. I think it is super sad that you are super sad :(.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8484 posts

Wow you have it covered then Emily,you are an expert on the whole subject! Still sad for you and envious of your countries superior ability to provide and supply for those persons with addictions and mental health issues. Wish it was that great here, and everywhere.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1252 posts

Just because Emily has a dissenting opinion on the homeless situation is no reason to lambaste her or insinuate a person who never gives any money or food directly to the homeless on the streets whenever a jangling cup of change is held out to them is "not compassionate". Yes, it's sad that addiction, job loss, mental illness and a host of other issues has led to an increase in panhandling in many large cities across the world; however, Emily is correct that it's best to not continue to add to the problem and to let the authorities and social service agencies assist with getting them placed somewhere. Feel bad about what you see? Then how about setting aside some of the money earmarked for your next European vacation and give it to a charity that assists the homeless population to help expand their outreach programs instead of dropping a couple of Euro into a cup?

Tourists dropping some measly change into a cup creates a larger problem for many cities and it's unlikely the money handed out by tourists is going to really make a difference in the quality of living for the person on the receiving end. While Diana encountered an appreciative polite homeless man with his "Bon Jour Madame" and "Merci", the bottom line is panhandling creates a nuisance for business owners and the local residents. When a highly visible population of "beggars" starts milling about, it hurts the city's image and affects tourism as well as some tourists will go on websites (such as Diana did with this one) and point out the abundance of panhandling and potential visitors may see that as something they want to avoid and will go elsewhere to spend their money. Some of the seriously mentally ill panhandlers can be very unpredictable and pose a danger to themselves and others.

I've lived in many major U.S. cities as well as lived and worked in Italy. In one of the U.S. cities I lived in, I had an 8 block walk to/from work each day and in the middle of that commute was a very prominent tourist attraction which made that area a magnet for panhandling. In that 8 blocks there were 9 panhandlers I would see on the same corners daily and I would receive the same request for money from all 9 of them twice a day - coming in to work in the morning and going home in the evening. Was I supposed to "adopt" all of them? Pick the few I felt where "deserving" of my pocket change, last night's leftover lasagna or a hot dog from the food truck nearby? What was the "reasonable and compassionate" way to respond? Because in my mind, it was not by handing over 75 cents towards that night's purchase of Colt 45 or running into McDonald's to get them a greasy burger off the Dollar Menu. But a significant and regular donation of boxed food and canned goods to a soup kitchen, warm clothing and a shopping bag full of toiletries to a homeless shelter, and money donated to an organization that works towards helping place those less fortunate does make a difference...

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3614 posts

"a significant and regular donation of boxed food and canned goods to a soup kitchen, warm clothing and a shopping bag full of toiletries to a homeless shelter, and money donated to an organization that works towards helping place those less fortunate does make a difference..."

I do all that too. I was just addressing beggars on the street.

You make good points Ceidleh.

Posted by George
Madison, WI
2 posts

Diana, we saw that same young woman with the dog and her 6 puppies on Rue Rivoli across from The Louvre, on May 20th and it's been bothering me every day since. Our Relais.du Louvre hotel 1 block from the Louvre had a resident homeless man whom we took food to.
The Romania girls were literally up in our faces,but backed way off when I got out my phone and took their photo.
Another scam the pick pockets used on us twice was pretending to find a wide gold wedding band "lost" on the ground,then coming up close to us to distract us. Just kept on walking.
Our hotel told us that a baby is "rented for the day" to increase donations. In retrospect, it made sense why the woman sitting outside Sunday mass looked too old to have an infant.
Saw no homeless in northern Italy lake district, but was approached on train platform in Milan.