top of page

Lady At The Station

As we wheeled our bags in DC's Union Station, Tarun bumped a lady's suitcase with his roll-on bag. He stopped to apologize and then continued walking. I was a few steps behind Tarun and by the time I got to her, she was asking, "Can you get me some food?" and pointing to the Sbarro on her left. I was confused with the request and asked her if she wanted money and she said, "Yes." We gave her a bit and watched her head off to the Sbarro. Later, I saw her having lunch there.

I've written before about the conflict of giving to panhandlers. What if they use it for alcohol and drugs? Seeing this lady use the money to feed herself was a relief. Whether or not she could afford it before our chance encounter is arguable; she had a smartphone after all. Maybe she prefers to panhandle for food and conserve her money for other priorities. I have no idea!

Here are some numbers* from Toronto:

Would prefer minimum wage job over panhandling: 70%

Monthly income from pan handling: $300

Chronic health issue or disability: 81%

Median age: 37.4 years

Living in shelters: 65%

Marijuana use: 52%

Cocaine: 37%

Heroin: 9%

From 2017^, 48% of panhandlers are African American, 25% are veterans, and 94% buy food with the money they are given.

At Union Station, I was glad to see the last of these statistics in action.

Can we as individuals stop panhandling? Of course not. Can we help in sporadic ways? Sure. Can we end up promoting someone's drug or alcohol habit? Maybe.

At the end of the day, this sobering thought stops us in our tracks and encourages us to give - we don't know why we have custody of our mental and physical health and why we find ourselves in our present circumstance; we could have been the lady at the station or maybe she was like us one day.



bottom of page