Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Beggars' Boulevard - Mendicants line the streets, blame joblessness, misfortune for state of being

Published:Tuesday | December 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
A beggar by the stop light on Tom Redcam Avenue yesterday.
A beggar by the stop light on Tom Redcam Avenue yesterday.
This man asks motorists for assistance at the stop light on Slipe Road in Kingston yesterday.
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If you have travelled by the intersection of Cross Roads and Caledonia Avenue in St Andrew, you might have seen Dane Robotham hailing motorists or waiting patiently at the traffic light to beg for money.

Robotham is among hundreds of Jamaicans who make their way to the streets daily, soliciting funds, some for personal gain, while there are others desperately trying to make ends meet.

"Four months ago, mi drop inna wan pit and bruk mi hip, so I'm asking if you can assist me with some money," Robotham said as he approached our news team.

As he got comfortable, he told The Gleaner that he was not playing a trick and shrugged off suggestions that he was lazy.

"Is not like mi love beg, but a months now mi a try look a work, and because I'm not so well, nobody nah employ me," he said.

Begging is last resort

In Half-Way Tree, Audrey was busy trying to sell her wares, while attending to her nine-month-old baby.

However, after not being able to gain a sale, she resorted to asking persons for $500.

"Mi nah try trick nobody. Sometimes mi feel like run weh because a days mi out here so and not a ting nuh sell. Since odda day, mi baby have some bump on him skin and is some cream mi want to buy to rub it when mi go home," Audrey said.

"If you even want to go and buy the cream yourself, mi nuh have a problem, because I honestly need di medication fi help mi son. Di father not around, so mi affi really try to do my part fi ensure say him nuh go to bed hungry," she explained.

Marilyn Allen, in commenting on the issue, told The Gleaner that she has had numerous encounters with beggars. She indicated that her willingness to help people, sometimes results in her being misled.

"There was a man with a baby wrapped in a sheet looking frantic and waving down cars in Acadia (St Andrew). I stopped and he said the baby pulled the porridge off the stove that he was preparing for the other five children to go to school. [He said] her face and body is all burnt," she told The Gleaner.

"He said he's begging some money to get her to the hospital. It's normal, as it's a shocking story and no one would stop to think, 'Why beg money for taxi to hospital?' I offered to take him to UHWI (University Hospital of the West Indies) with the baby, but I said, 'First, let me see the baby.' He walked away, waved me off and cuss some bad words," she recalled.

Tricked more than once

Durvane Andrews, who lives in Montego Bay, also has interesting stories, noting that he has been tricked a few times.

"I was once approached by a gentleman who brought a letter from the fire department that his house was damaged by fire and he lost everything. He was very persuasive, and, in addition to his letter and sad story, he brought his 'son' who was saying he was hungry and had nothing to eat. It turned out that he was a con artist," Andrews said.

Both Allen and Andrews, however, noted that they were still willing to give a helping hand to persons who are genuine.

"I won't be cold. Sometimes the Holy Spirit tells me to give, but if I don't get that feeling, I move on. I have lots of begging stories, been bitten a few times, so I'm just careful," Allen said.

"I think, however, that if people actually get dressed every morning with the intention to trick people, it's a shame," she continued.

For Andrews, he said he will be more cautious.

"I would not say I'm completely against beggars, but situations I have encountered have contributed to me being more hesitant, I have to do a heart to heart," he said.

Melissa Haughton, on the other hand, said she is completely turned off and will only give if she believes the situation is dire.

"Boy, my first instinct is to say no to the beggars who take it as work. I don't like it," she declared.

"There are very few situations where I feel in my heart that there is a need and they don't even have to ask, I will just give. I avoid tricksters, though," she said.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com