Begging means asking people for money, food, shelter or other things, when one is not able to give anything instead. It is also referred to as sponging, spanging (short for "spare-changing") or (in American English) panhandling.
In larger cities, it is common to see beggars who ask for money, food, or other items. Typically, beggars often beg for spare change using coffee cups, mugs, small boxes, hats, or other items into which monies can be placed and sometimes display signs with messages such as "Help me. I'm homeless."
Use of funds obtained by begging
A 2002 study of 54 panhandlers in Toronto reported that of a median monthly income of $638 CAD, those interviewed spent a median of $200 CAD on food and $192 CAD on alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. The Fraser Institute, however, criticized this study. They said there were many forms of begging including ones in which good money can be earned. They also said that panhandlers' reports were not reliable
Because of this, some people say that it would be better to give the beggars gift cards or food/service vouchers, instead of money. Some shelters also offer business cards with information on the shelter's location and services, which can be given instead of cash.
Aggressive panhandling means to ask for donations or help in a threatening manner. This is not mugging, but rather similar and therefore often forbidden by law. Examples include:
- Asking customers inside a store or restaurant.
- Extending a hand, or even the head and both arms, into a car window
- Asking after dark, in a secluded area.
- There have been reports of beggars who will try to have their limbs amputated in the hope that they can get more out of sympathy.
Well known beggars
- Bampfylde Moore Carew self-styled King of the Beggars
- Nicholas Jennings in Thomas Harman's "Caveat for Common Cursitors"
- Ryan Larkin
- Eugene Kim (one of the homeless who hopes to pay his way through college by these means)
- Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, by Scott A. Sandage (Harvard University Press, 2005).
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