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Seeking permanent prison break

Over the last two weeks, I've seen one persistent beggar four times on the ride home from work.

He enters through the door connecting train cars. He tells us his name is Jevon Dyer, and he just got out of prison after spending five years at Stateville.

That admission certainly gets people's attention, as some clutch their bags tighter, while for others, jaws drop as riders listen to his plaintive pleas and honest life assessment.

He tells us he's looking for a job, and has a few resumes if we'd like to see one. He explains he's also in desperate need of deodorant, soap, socks, underwear, food , and if you don't mind, he could use some spare change for a 7-day CTA pass. "That would be great."

I took a resume. He's got lots of experience as a fork-lift driver, in case any of you know of a job opening in that field.


I moved to Chicago 4 months ago. My first week riding the Red Line, I saw this guy giving the same speech. I've seen him once or twice since then most recently about a month ago. Either this guy really is hard up and can't find a job or he makes a pretty good living trolling the CTA for handouts. I have to give him points though on his approach. Much better than "can you spare some change".

I've seen him since last summer. The first time I heard his tale I thought he had a small chance of being legitimate. Now...after 9+ months of the same story over and over - I'm of the opinion he's no different than any other "spare change" panhandler.

I've seen someone on the Blue Line with a similar story. This guy claims that he just got a job and starts next Monday, but that he just needs a little cash for now. I think that if he hasn't gotten paid for the last four months that he should probably look for a new job.

I never- and I mean, NEVER give beggars money. If I have food on me I'll give it gladly, but not money. But this guy, for some reason, totally got me. It sounded somewhat legit, and after no one (including me) responded to his plea, he sat down and started CRYING. The guilt set in and I called him over to give him some change.

Now, of course, I realized that my suspicions were true- professional panhandler. Its a good reminder why I don't- and shouldn't- give money to anyone.

I met Jevon outside of the Pot Belly's on State and Lake and he was a total a** to me! He went through his story and I was impressed with his honesty. He asked for change and I politely, and honestly, told him I don't carry cash on me. I said, "I'm sorry," after explaining this to him and you know what he said? "What you got to be sorry for!?" And went on a rampage about it.... Whatever! So from that day on, Mr. Dyer has been on my S-list. I blatantly ignore him when he makes his speech on my train. I DON'T feel "sorry" for him! I have very little sympathy for people who make poor choices in their own lives and expect others to take care of them. I especially have little sympathy for beggars with nasty attitudes! By the way, I am a black female who grew up in the "hood" on the south side during the 90s when the gangsta life was at a crazy peak. Many of my classmates ended up pregnant or dead by gun violence, or in jail. Yet, here I am, educated at a top-tier university, childless until marriage, and gainfully employed.... Life truly is what YOU make it!!! Peace.

I have very little sympathy for people who make poor choices in their own lives and expect others to take care of them.

This type of attitude ignores the very real prescence of mental illness in a large part of the homeless population.

Amen ELLE!
Well said, Mike!

Rather than give money to panhandlers, I make donations to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which supplies pantries and soup kitchens in the city and some suburbs. I let the panhandlers know where the local soup kitchens are. They usually grumble, but if they are truly hungry they have options. The variations of the "I have to get to Joliet to get my uncle's car" stories never cease to amaze me. There are some pretty elaborate new twists on the old song out there. I always let the person know I won't be giving them any money. Many times they want to spin their yarn anyway, perhaps hoping I'll make a donation based on creativity.

There seem to be fashions in panhandler stores as in everything else. A while back for example, there was the "I just need another (x) dollars to get gas so I can get back home to my family. I heard it once, then for months after, dozens of times from different people. The "prisoner" story is also told by several panhandler now. Sometimes I wonder if there's a trade newsletter or website with ideas for new lines. Or seminars, even.

The big problem for me is that some small percentage of the stories are probably true.

Obviously doesn't happen on the train. But whenever someone by the entrance to an el station asks me for change towards el fare I go one better and offer to use my transit card to get them on the train.

Funny how no one has EVER taken me up on it. They always need a "different" train, or need to get on the train "later".

kevin, can you scan his resume and put it on here??

Sorry johnson. I actually gave his resume to my HR department at work.

If you want to do some good in the world, take the money you're willing to give away and give it to UNICEF or the Coalition for the Homeless or America's Second Harvest or something. Your money will have much more impact because it will be pooled with other donations to buy stuff in bulk, and it will reach people who you can be sure are desperately in need of the basic necessities in life.

The only thing it won't do is give you an immediate sense of being a do-gooder by giving money to the person who is standing in front of you on the train. But: (1) odds are the person on the train is professional and doesn't need the money nearly as badly as the people eating dirt cookies to survive in Haiti (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22902512/), and (2) if the point is to do as much good as possible with your money, then whether it gives you an instantaneous warm-fuzzy feeling really shouldn't be part of the calculus.

So absolutely give money away, but don't just do the equivalent of a charitable impulse buy. It will accomplish little other than giving you a probably mistaken sense of having done a good deed.

"He explains he's also in desperate need of deodorant, soap, socks, underwear, food"

Not to make fun of his plight, but at least he's in the right place... you can buy many of these things from travelling vendors on the Red Line, especially deodorant and socks.

I hope he finds a job; I'd like to believe he really is looking for steady work, but like some of the others who have posted, it's easy to become cold to these stories when so many of them at least appear to be bogus.

I take the line I saw somewhere online--maybe even here--I don't open my wallet on the street, esp busy ones, or in any crowded situations, which includes public transit much of the time.
I have seen genuine need on the streets & they're the ones happy to get food if you offer. If you don't want it, then I got nothing for you. Hardline maybe, but realistic.

"I have to get to Joliet to get my uncle's car"

I've taken to telling these people I just had my wallet stolen. It works.

>>don't just do the equivalent of a charitable impulse buy<<

Well said, irk.

But just like there are people who'll buy the over-priced trinkets next to the check-out at the over-priced convinience store, there's going to be people will so little willpower (or so little smarts) who'll keep doing it no matter how many rational people point out how illogical their impulse buy is.

Perhaps some legit charities should add this point of reasoning to their pleas for help. After all, the people/cause who/that they serve are victims everytime someone gives money away on impulse to some con man on the street.

I maintain that if these beggers have the stuff needed to approach strangers with well-crafted pleas for money, they have what it takes to find a social service agency, public or private, that will help them if they are truly in need.

But it's not about their needs. It's about how so many people are willing to make that uninformed impulse buy.

If there's anyone here who gives money to beggers on the street, I appeal to your ability to think logically, and STOP GIVING THEM MONEY. NEVER, EVER GIVE THEM MONEY!

We all (should) know it in our brains. So be strong enough to control any irrational impulses to give it away to those beggers.

But if you're so controled by your impulses that you can't help yourself, please feel free to send all your money to me, and I'll make sure it gets spent wisely. (snicker)

Weirdly enough, I saw this in the morning and saw him on the red line last night. Weird.

"The variations of the "I have to get to Joliet to get my uncle's car" stories never cease to amaze me."; I would love to know/ask "you can't afford carfare to Joliet, how can you afford gas (let alone insurance/titles etc)?".

I had one (ironically when I was in Joliet) that asked me for 5 bucks because he had to be in court in chicago and his mom JUST went into labor is at the hospital; she forgot to give him 5 bucks to get on the train. Uh, yea okay, this "kid" looked like his mom would be around 80 seeing as how he looked well into his 30s.

So, Mike.... Mental illness is a "poor choice"? Apparently, you never majored in Psychology. Jevon is an ex-con. NOT mentally challenged. If you want to preach or make a point, THINK before you post dribble.... Peace!

By the way, I always give to those who are truly (and I mean truly) in need. Not slick beggars like JD.

LOL, I totally meant "DRIVEL". :-P Anyway, Shut Up!

Elle--reread his post. He says "This type of attitude ignores the *very real* prescence of mental illness in a large part of the homeless population." (astericks mine) My interpretation is that the jerks who make poor choices and/or try to sponge off the rest of us hides those in very real need, especially those with mental illnesses.

I saw this guy Wednesday night and I just rolled my eyes. When I first moved here, I felt so guilty for never giving people money. But after three years of hearing and seeing all the spiels, I don't believe any of it. I especially don't believe the prison guy because I saw him some time last fall and he had the same line.

I work hard for my money at my two jobs. I'm not going to give it to some person on the street who can't get his/her shit together, except to make up some elaborate fiction trying to make people feel pity. It's not working.

By the way, I always give to those who are truly (and I mean truly) in need.

How do you know? Do you have some sort of magic insight that escapes everyone else? Are you checking ID, and doing on-the-spot background checks?

Somehow I doubt that you have the ability or the resources to accurately assess who are "truly in need", and those who just have a good act. Unless you have the resources, and are using those resources, you're only rationalizing behavior that is contributing to the problem.

And even if they are "truly in need", how are you helping them? Are you getting them to agencies that are equipt to make a difference? Or are you simply enabling their anti-social lifestyle?

Any time you give money to someone in a chance encounter on the street, you're doing more harm than good. Rationalize it anyway you want, but it makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution. That money you throw away in such an encounter could be put to much better use when properly contributed to legit charities.

You want to help? Help them connect with the professionals. But don't give them money. If you have too much money, give it away in a more responsible way that does not contribute to this problem.

Not sure if I met the same guy, but I was approached by a beggar in one of the Blue Line stations who told a similar story. He also said that people were "afraid" of him because of his facial scar. He volunteered that it was because he had been jumped by someone with a shiv in prison. He was way in my personal space, and I thought, highly experienced at intimidating people without doing anything for which he could actually be charged. I was undergoing chemo at the time, so I took off my hat to display my bald head and told him I had cancer, apropos of nothing. It startled him, and he left me alone.

Yeah, screw that guy. I want to ask him how he has such a closely shaved head when I can barely afford razors with my actual job.

This guy is a classic. He does have some fork lift skills & I bet he would make a good employee. I believe his crimial convictions were for non-violent crimes. I bet even the cops give him a break on the panhandling. I hope he gets a job soon.

I was on the Orange Line train today and the "prison guy" appeared again (I have seen him several times in the last year). He started his same ol' story when an elderly (and rather eccentric-carrying three duffel bags) white woman stood up and told him solicitation was illegal on the CTA. He stopped his spiel and sat down with his head hung. After a few minutes of quiet, he sarcastically starts telling her to have a nice day and that she is a " white racist" who doesn't know his story. He's going on and on and so she calls the police. The train is stopped and he's calling her a "b**** wasting all of these peoples time". The CTA operator came but the police didn't. He did get off. He kept saying to the woman that "he hopes she gets robbed and that he hopes something bad will happen to her". She kept saying "Have a nice day!" to every vindictive comment of his.

This guy is a scumbag. DO NOT GIVE HIM ANYTHING and avoid him at all cost!

In late summer 2007, I saw that maniac-who is the subject of this story-on the Red Line and he had a similar story. I ignored him and gave him a dirty look which made him travel to the next car. A couple months later, I saw that same sorry fool on the Orange Line. Since soliciting of any form is very sporadic on the Orange Line, my first thought was "Take your [bleep] back to either the ghetto or prison where you belong!" A woman on the Orange Line gave him some money and a one-day pass. I didn't give him anything for I didn't feel sorry for him, and I wasn't going to either. Who the heck does this guy think he is? Why should anyone take care of him because of his problems? He put himself in jail to begin with, and yes, it's hard to find a job when you have a criminal record like that, but like I said, he put himself in jail. As the saying goes, "You snooze, you lose!" Folks, don't help out someone who had every chance in the world to help out themselves, including this maniac.

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