Two women in Modesto, California were soliciting donations as “street people” from anyone who’d listen, and their story was that a baby belonging to one of the women died accidentally and they needed money to cover funeral costs.

One less-than-convinced sidewalk patron complained to the police about these two people. The police arrived on the scene and interrogated the women about their claims. They came to the conclusion that no baby died and thus they were scamming an innocent public. They were arrested for fraud!

So, now, every street person, bum, derelict, transient or solicitor of every type and stripe has to be honest and truthful when approaching “an innocent public” about their need for coin of the realm?

A guy’s sign says “Hungry.” How do I know he’s hungry? Isn’t everybody hungry a couple times a day?

Another guy’s sign says: “Homeless.” My logic tells me that a man who has no lodging has fewer expenses than someone who opts to live within four walls and under a roof.

I know plenty of “homeless” people who have monthly incoming direct deposits and plenty of means to satisfy their hunger pangs when they arise. The implication here is that a “homeless” person doesn’t have a “home” because he has no money; thus, he can’t eat. This just isn’t true!

Most of our “homeless” are very well fed. Are their solicitations of “an innocent public” a fraud? Shouldn’t they be arrested for illegal solictations based on unfounded claims?

Just think of all the signs you see on the street with sob stories leading up to a request for money “to relieve their distress?” My educated guess is that there’s a degree of disingenuousness in all these accounts and claims!

What to do in the face of such widespread and ongoing street fraud?

How about using the same attitude towards “street people” that we use with just ordinary commercial advertising or—God forbid—poplitical advertising: Either believe the claims and buy the product, service or candidate—or just walk on by.

Patronize them or ignore them! What’s wrong with that?

The alternative is arresting every street person for lies and fraud!

If that’s the case, we’d have to arrest every commercial enterprise or politician running for office for lies and deception which leads to de-frauding “an innocent public!” What is fraud to one person is nothing more than slant or bias to another person!

As for me, I patronize few advertisers in the media, and no street solicitors. I choose to walk on by! But the downtown market area with no transients, bums, derelicts, street musicians or the hungry/homeless would be infinitely more boring and sterile than a market area with them.

Street people solicit money because it works! Many people feel a religious need to share with folks that are (apparently) less well-off than they are. (Pious Hindus in South Asia are required by their religion to periodically give to the poor. It’s a (perhaps less obligatory) religious dictum also followed across the globe by many Christians and Jews.) Those who give are fulfilling a need as much as those in need are in accepting the public’s donations.

Remove the solicitor and you deprive the “haves” with a convenient means of satisfying their need to give and to help.

Demanding that every vendor and solicitor adhere to “truth in advertising” is only going to result in a full-employment policy for law enforcement, public defenders and the judicial system!

The rest of society will be worse off.


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