Homeless, Panhandlers and Transients


Central Florida is notorious for its homeless, panhandlers, and transients.  They come here for the fine weather that we enjoy year round, and to get away from whatever they are running from.  From the homeless, to the snowbirds who leave their second homes to vacation here, from October to April, our population numbers on our sidewalks in Orlando double. Orlando is a beautiful city and this is a part of our culture.

However, I am starting to get jaded, and I really do not want to be.header_70

Here are the two reasons why:

images (7)1.       I was driving to work one day and I came to an intersection that is a common place for panhandlers to stand with their signs asking for help.  I had no cash on me, but the sign read: HUNGRY.  I had just been through Mc Donald’s for food for my supper, so I passed off my supper to the panhandler, and decided I would leave work later to buy my own.  I realized I did not bring my mobile phone with me, so with time to spare, I turned around at the next intersection to go back home for it.  As I passed through the panhandler’s intersection, I saw him smashing my donation into a trashcan in front of the bank on the corner.  After retrieving my phone from my house, and returning to this intersection, there was the panhandler with his sign in my window again.  I had to drive on by.

2.       I went to get gas one day.  When I pulled into the station and began to pump my gas, a guy came over talking in sign language as if he could not speak.  He had little cards that showed sign language and images (11)he gave me one.  I thanked him in sign language, and he held out a jar with a couple of dollars and some change in it, so I dropped in a dollar, or two.  I went inside the station to shop.  The man came in.  The clerk says to the man, “How are we doing today David?”  The “deaf” man says, “Pretty good, I have some more ones and I need some twenties.”  He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out two huge rolls of bills.  A roll of ones and a roll of twenties.  I am not talking small rolls.  These rolls were bigger around than my toilet paper.  I doubted if he needed them to wipe his ass.

Knowing that these were two isolated incidents helps a little.  There are literally hundreds who are genuinely hungry and not looking to scam, and I am getting better at sorting them out the longer I live here.  I look at the derelicts laying on park benches or pushing their shopping carts and I think, most sincerely, “There but for the grace of God go I!”

images (8)Because of this internal philosophy, I spend my Sundays during these months feeding the homeless.  They gather in Lake Eola park downtown, where numerous organizations and Homeless-440x352individuals come out to pass food and some small pleasure to these people.  They are part of us.  They are us, but for the grace of God.  I know that some of you might be thinking, “They need to get a job and stop depending on handouts,” but truly, until you have experienced life through their eyes, walked in their shoes, and shared whatever agonies have plagued them, you really don’t know why they suffer the humility of having to beg.  I am humbled.

Because many share those sentiments, that the homeless/panhandlers need to work harder to change their circumstances, never mind that we have closed up most mental institutions and put many of these needy people onto the streets, the shop owners in particular, are up in arms.   So are the wealthier “snowbirds”, the resident tourists, who want their second home locations to be spotless and pure, more like the communities they hail from, when they are down to enjoy these expensive second homes and condos. They want to “clean up” Orlando.

  So the City Council passed new laws. It is now a violation of city ordinance to panhandle outside of the white lined boxes on street corners, and panhandling can only be done during certain times of day.  The police can also issues citations to donors, in addition to recipients.img_20130824_085757_609-1024x576  The ordinance is rarely enforced, but the fact that it exists is most troubling.  What does it say about our society and our level of tolerance and acceptance?  The rationale was, “Panhandling encourages and enables the homeless to continue to depend on unacceptable, easily obtainable resources.”  Really?  Easily obtainable?  Obviously none of these Councilmen have ever been homeless.  It is not an “easy” job for most.images (6)

The Councilmen have also tried to stop us from feeding the homeless at Lake Eola City Park on Sundays for the same reasons.  There was a move to ban that as well, but in consideration that it posed no threat to businesses, and the people retaliated vehemently their rights to support the homeless, the Councilmen withdrew their ban.  So beginning in October, we will rejoin the multitudes that come out to feed the multitudes on Sundays in the park.  My crispy cornbread cakes will be passed out alongside of the great pots of vegetable beef soup to the courageous people strong enough to ask for help.

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23 thoughts on “Homeless, Panhandlers and Transients

  1. I once heard a rumor but have never verified it that there were some supposedly “homeless people” who were pulling in 3 figure income (on the low side I think) just from donations. Blows my mind. Crazy stuff! Glad to see you out there helping though, that is really cool! 🙂


  2. I remember one time in Florida, I gave some money to a homeless guy that helped me figure out a parking lot meter. My wife and I were hitting a comedy club to support a friend. We left the club to see the ‘homeless’ guy sitting in a BMW. He saw us and tore out of there the moment I stepped in his direction.

    I have met people who admit that they make more panhandling than they would in an office job. They live on the street and eat cheap food, but they have bank accounts to keep most of their money in. Once they hit old retirement age, they live off that money in a small apartment for the rest of their days.


    1. That does not surprise me either. I heard many such stories when I worked in psychiatry and the homeless would come in to get admitted just for the air conditioning during the worst of the summer heat. It is an odd lifestyle choice and I don’t think I could find much happiness in it.

      The guy in the BMW would be one of the scammers that pisses me off though.


    2. You know, your story reminded me of a guy who was panhandling on the corner of Orange and Colonial wearing a suit and tie. He was holding a sign that read, “Cheated the IRS, Wife Left Me, Huge Bills, NEED YOUR HELP”, and I actually gave him a couple of dollars to add to his rapidly filling jar. Maybe I thought Kudos for being honest, but it was probably a student initiation prank, now that I think about it. I probably just bought him and his frat buddies a beer…LOL


  3. This post really resonated with me, living in Jacksonville with warm weather like in Orlando. I love how you did just an even-handed job of portraying the scammers and the truly indigent. I used to carry in my car little packs tuna or chicken snacks to hand out to pan handlers begging at the crossroads of major intersections. I have always had ambivalent feelings about helping these people until one day I decided to judge the exchange by the intention of my heart, not the motives of the receiver, which are certainly a mystery to me.

    Your post also brought to mind an older “plainandfancy” post on the “hobo” I recall from childhood: http://plainandfancygirl.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/stinky-joe/


    1. I know that there are both scammers and the genuinely indigent. I am learning to make distinctions and am not so very quick to toss money at them anymore, but I still help in ways that I know are beneficial. Alcohol and drugs play a significant roll in the scammers around here and I truly don’t wish to enable those habits. Also, I was going broke donating cash at every corner.


  4. This is a big problem in Vegas. Within easy sight of the buildings on the Strip, there are intersection after intersection of panhandlers. Right next to billions in investments and tourism. It’s so difficult to tell which are which. I believe many tourists never see the real Las Vegas unless of course they go east or west off of Las Vegas Blvd. If you go to the west side of the valley, it’s much more upscale…


    1. I once was altruist enough to give up my last dime in an effort to relieve someone’s misery and offer some comfort, (even if it meant I would go hungry) ,but I have gotten less free with my cash and look for other ways to offer some relief.


  5. Hey SK… Don’t ever lose faith because of the actions of the few… Most homeless people are in dire straits not of their own choosing or making… people that say homeless people should have to work like everyone else don’t realize it is near impossible to keep a job if you have no where to live and no food in your stomach. I think your councilmen should be required to spend a week, or a month on the streets before enacting laws that punish those who have already been punished enough. Our Humanity is on display in how we treat those who are suffering.


    1. Those are the reasons I still hold to my faith and continue to participate in activities to help the homeless as much as possible. I, too, have been in position to wonder where my next meal is coming from, and slept in the street, so I can personally relate to their plight. I am not giving up and agree wholeheartedly that these Councilmen are only looking for personal gain in supporting the businessmen and should have to spend a few weeks in this heat on the streets or in a bedbug infested shelter. I appreciate your comments as well as your concern for the plight of those souls less fortunate. We will keep supporting them any way that we can. My husband, a rocket scientist and a recovering alcoholic, also helps in ways that I cannot begin to share in one comment or post 🙂


    2. It also tears me up that the wealthy snowbirds are more of a nuisance and seriously compound our traffic problems, but yet get attention and preferential treatment because they have money to spend.


  6. You are starting to scare me. As a long haul truck driver for over 20 years I have been to almost everywhere. I have seen the decline of certain cities that baffles me. There are now homeless cities in LA, New York, Detroit and Dallas…just to name a few, that would blow your mind and make you seriously doubt the goodness of mankind toward his brother. I have volunteered and lived in shelters where there are “career” homeless people that want nothing to do with a “normal” existence. I know of homeless people that travel the trains from coast to coast hauling pot and other assorted goodies in their back-packs coast to coast for their living. But, you are right unfortunately. These are the exceptions. One bad apple DOES spoil the bunch though.
    There are thousands and thousands of homeless that are in dire straits. I do what I am able, and I am more wary and alert to the ones who are working the innocent. It is a good thing what you do.


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