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A novel approach to begging; CTA weekend work

It was an approach to begging I had never seen before.

The guy stood in the middle of the Red Line train car, sobbing and crying. "Will anyone please help me get something to eat," he pleaded. Over and over.

I was flabbergasted, not knowing what to think. But he exited the train empty-handed at Belmont.

One woman DID know what to think: "Those were crocodile tears," said the woman who had been sitting right near he was standing.

This weekend's Blue Line service suspension. This week the CTA is moving further north on the Blue Line to work, thus suspending service from Jefferson Park to Cumberland from  pm Fiday till 3 am Monday.

No Yellow Line Sunday. Maintenance work and grade crossing repairs will cause service suspension all day Sunday fo Yelloww Line customers. Use the #97 Skokie bus instead.

Tricky boarding late Halloween night at Berwyn. Riders at the Red Line Berwyn stop will not be able to board going northbound tonight from 11 pm till 4 am Saturday morning, due to station renovation work. So be careful otu there, you drunken Halloween partiers!

Typical Loop El work. As usual, the Lake Street and Wabash sides of the Loop elevated tracks will be shut for repairs from 10 pm Friday till 4 am Monday. Details on reroutes of the Brown, Orange, Pink and Green lines here.


I've sen that grift before. Be it genuine or not, the first few times you hear it is is pretty heart-wrenching.

From the way the headline was constructed, I first thought that the CTA was putting the beggar to work. Guess not.

Like winchesta in the photo pool indicates, people who ride frequently enough get to know the characters.

That sounds like the young white guy that sits on the ground in front of Old Navy on State St every afternoon.


Bingo. I immediately thought the same thing. That guy has the pipes. Hell even I almost gave him some money. Almost.

So why doesn't the CTA just reroute the pink line into the milwaukee-dearborn subway? That way they don't have to turn it around in the south loop.

Yeah, that Old Navy kid is a pain. I used to see him everyday when I worked closer to that side of the loop. One day, my wife was telling a story about this guy on the red line telling these frat boys his life story, and how he and his girlfriend had all these health problems, and some guy gave him cubs tickets to sell, but no one wanted them. And as she was telling me, I thought, huh, this sounds like that guy in front of Old Navy.

Then she said he told the guys, "oh yeah, you'll see me in front of Old Navy. That's my usual corner."

Chicago really is a small place after all.

I had a person approach me outside the Davis station in Evanston Monday night and ask for food. I was holding my leftover chicken vesuvio in a carryout container, so I couldn't really say I didn't have any food. Since she asked for food outright and not money, I gave it to her. I know she needed it more than I did, but damn I really wanted to eat that leftover chicken vesuvio for lunch Tuesday.

The crying man would not have merited the chicken vesuvio. I've offered to buy people food when they've asked for money to buy food and usually they refuse. Same thing with offering a Chicago Card love tap when people ask for money for L fare.

Does Chicago have a central number to call on behalf of someone who may need various social services? I have in mind an office with a social worker who could take charge and get the person whatever they supposedy needed at the moment plus arrange some longer-term help. That would be an effective way to deal with all sorts of sob stories without having to tell who's faking, or feeling hard-hearted.

If you call 311, they can get you connected to the Chicago Dept. of Human Services, which can coordinate all services: emergency housing, counseling, nutritional assistance, etc.

The guy in front of Old Navy is a preacher and to my knowledge, not a beggar.


And the reason I don't give most of these people any money is that my tax dollars already go to programs to support them and giving them money only makes them keep coming back.

My favorite is the guy who fakes being blind and walks through very crowded trains begging. The bible-thumpers are always good for a laugh, especially when people start arguing with them.


The conversation from earlier today was about the much younger man who does indeed beg outside the Old Navy, not the minister with the mic who hangs in/around the same corner.

For sheer volume there is always the lady who hangs out in front of Wendys Clark/Monroe (or is it Madison) across from the Chase Bldg asking for money.


Martha and C.C. Writer,

What are you guys planning on doing? Are you going to kidnap these guys and hold them for the social services people? Are you going to call officials from these agencies and have them come on the train to corner the beggers and somehow convince them to seek whatever services they need?

What if a CTA begger simply stated he needed alcohol? I respect honesty and would probably give him/her a buck or 2 and even direct them to the nearest liquor store! The kid in front of Old Navy is a classic. I once saw him conversing with the preacher guy. Maybe their friends?

I wasn't planning on doing anything, MK. I was merely answering CC's question. You'd be hard-pressed to find a first-person pronoun in my post about DHS.

Well, you made a suggestion to C.C. Writer in which you certainly implied that you thought might be a good idea.

Let's ask C.C. how he/she perceived my answer. C.C., did you feel unduly influenced by my answer to do something you weren't already intending to do?

No, I didn't feel unduly influenced, nor do I intend to do anything untoward with the information, such as attempting to detain a bum. Once, I did respond to the well-rehearsed homeless-hungry rap of a beggar on the train by reaching for my cell phone and offering to call social services to get him some help. He was not too happy with the idea and got out of there quickly. I just wanted to make sure it was not an empty promise. However, mostly I just ignore them. It would surely be nice if somebody would come get them, though. Didn't I read a few years ago that the CTA and cops had some kind of task force to get the bums off the system and into a place to stay, etc? Or did I imagine this?

I once saw a 20 some kid begging in front of Macy's (I'm 22) and I started laughing at him (as anyone should)... hes young, hes white, no clear disadvantages in the labor workforce.

Back when I lived in a garden apartment and frequently had homeless folks sleeping against my sheltered back door, I called 311; during my first conversation, I asked whether I should be calling them or whether there was a better number. The staffer I was talking to told me that either 311 or 911 would bring police to size up the situation; however, if I called 311, they'd arrive prepared to bring the unfortunate person to a shelter, social services, or some other form of help. If I called 911, they'd arrive prepared to bring her or him to a cell for a night's sleep. (And they said I shouldn't bother contacting shelters myself; they had better contacts than I did, which was sensible.)

The staffer also told me, and this has been confirmed by social services employees I've talked to, that many shelters are more dangerous than either a cell or the streets and, after a bad experience or two, many homeless would rather avoid shelters. Nonetheless, unless I felt threatened by someone -- and a homeless person has never made me feel threatened -- I'd call 311. While the person can't stay on private property (whether the CTA or a home's gangway) he or she can decline the offer of help and go elsewhere if the quality of the shelter is a concern.

FWIW, I remember that there was a thread on this site some time ago discussing these issues in which one homeless person got involved in the thread and provided some advice. Perhaps someone can find that thread and post a link or two.

I'm sure all the homeless people (and those claiming to be homeless) are aware of the services that are provided to them. If it looks as if they are not taking advantage of these services it likely is because, for whatever reason, they choose not to. It is somewhat elitist to think that all one has to do is is call 311 and have some people speak to a homeless person and then all of the sudden they will be well on their way to recovery. (I'm not calling anyone here elitist. I'm just stating that that is an elitist view).


Good Grief! Trust me, not all white people are always at an advantage in life. There are many whites who have had the same life experiences which may cause people of any race to go down the wrong path in life. Some people might say that it is racist to believe that whites always have enormous advantages just as it clearly is racist to believe that blacks are always (or predominately) criminals or drug addicts. I assume you are not white, Stephen. The problem with living in a city as segregated as Chicago is that there are people who form views like you stated.

We have a little joke that we enjoy in the counseling business, MK. It goes something like this:

Q: How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

Nobody said anything about calling 311 and everything magically changing for the better. If that were true, my parkway trees would be trimmed and the cat that drew its last breath outside my backdoor would have been given a dignified sendoff before the flies set up shop. 311 is a resource, not a panacea. That's what I believe and that's what I presented in my post.

Don't assume that people are aware of the resources that are available to them. Generally they are not, through no fault of their own. There are hundreds of social service agencies in the Chicago area. CDHS is a resource that serves as a central reference point. C.C. asked if there was such a resource; I provided the info absent any endorsement of action. Please stop with the assertion that there was a call to action implied. C.C. dispelled that assumption in his/her last post.

Thanks, Martha. It's a shame you have to reply to such comments even once, let alone make the same points repeatedly.


I have no idea where this ongoing personal vendetta you have against me comes from. But, in any case, I don't think you are someone who should be complaining about people needing to repeat things. This is evident here: http://www.ctatattler.com/2008/10/analysis-of-pro/comments/page/3/#comments

I am also confused as to where exactly in this thread you see that I was not understanding something that I should have. Martha and C.C. Writer were discussing the possibilty of taking certain actions with regard to beggers. Contrary to what thier subsequent comments may imply, I did not actually think they were literally going to do what they were discussing. And I certainly didn't think they were going to engage in the hypothetical scenerio I used to illustrate what I believed were their flawed assumptions about this issue. Nobody repeated anything to me. For whatever reason, they felt the need to state that that were not going to engage in my hypothetical activity. Obviously, I had already realized that.

Looks like we have our second cage fight forming

Does MK feel it is bad to take any sort of action to get someone some help--especially when they are publicly proclaiming their need? If so, why?

Concerning shelters, my understanding is that a shelter or jail is not the only place a homeless person could be sent by the system. I have heard there are paths that result in a person being set up in a decent SRO. Perhaps Martha could comment on that.

There used to be a guy with a great, raspy, "Pleeeeeease...I need something to eat!" outside of the Civic Opera Building/2 N. Riverside bridges every day. It's believeable at first, but when it's everyday...you get a little tired of it. It's amazing how most people manage to feed themselves, but *this* guy needs YOU to feed him every day..

I could, C.C., but my worm can opener is in the shop for repairs. Ok, well, maybe with the following disclaimer:


So, a homeless guy walks into a social service agency.... Yes, C.C., there are long-term residential programs that include addiction treatment, counseling, and/or GED classes and vocational training. Unfortunately, they are few and far between. Because they are based on the teaching a man to fish model, rather than the giving a man a fish model, they are very expensive to operate and therefore have few openings for placement.

Thanks for the indemnification and info Martha! Hmm. Expensive--but possibly more economical over the long term--or at least yielding a better quality social environment for the investment. But likely to put fish-giver-outers out of work.

Oww! I just felt some highly offended fellow-poster hit me...Well, too bad, that's my opinion.

There's a place for fish-giving C.C., but it's not a optimal long-term model, just as massive weekend slow zone remediation does not constitute an optimal rail system maintenance program. Pro-active is always more cost effective than reactive, but unfortunately in social service funding, as in transit funding, the various levels of government don't generally see it that way.

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