Responsible Tourism – Giving to Beggars

I recently read a thought-provoking article *Do you give money to beggars in which the author questioned their motives for not giving hand-outs to beggars. The article concentrated on the homeless of cities like Auckland or New York but it did its job and made me think, about begging and responsible tourism.

Homeless in Old Havana, Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Sleeping on the streets

We all probably have a subconscious policy which we abide by, for people begging. Looking away, avoiding eye contact and ignoring the person in need is probably the most common. Justifying this by telling ourselves they would probably have only spent the money on drugs or alcohol.

Some choose to buy food which they then donate; at least this way the Good Samaritan is sure that the homeless person has been properly fed. I’ve tried this approach in Germany, an eccentric man turned up at a festival, he did not beg but it was clearly homeless. Enjoying a drink with a friend outside a bar, I ordered a sandwich and had it delivered to him. My friend thought I had lost leave of my senses.

Undressed in the Old Square of Havana, Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Not even rags to wear

Usually I also ignore those that just hold out their hand or a cup, preferring to give to those that at are least doing something. Sellers of the ‘Big Issue’ a magazine published to offer the homeless an income, usually not even taking the publication. Buskers on street corners, in subways or parks will usually be the beneficiaries of the change in my pocket.

Many travellers have experienced the effects of begging when abroad, they perceive us as wealthy and as such suitable targets. This perception is not entirely correct but to the poor in the developing world we are wealthy.

Being followed by a conga-line of children tugging at our clothes or having total strangers call us friends and asking for a ‘gift’ are things all seasoned travellers become accustomed to.

Begging in areas of the world where poverty is rife is often heart wrenching. Old men in rags or children with any sign of hope seemingly gone from their eyes will test the resolve of reasonable person. Sometimes the begging can seem cynical; women with very young children certainly seem so. Many may have no choice but to have their children in attendance but equally some purposely use them as a form of ‘prop’.

A beggar busker in the Djemaa el Fna in the medina in Marrakech, Morocco on Mallory on Travel adventure photography Iain_Mallory_00333

Playing for his supper

It is difficult to ignore those that have suffered from the weapons of warfare. Some were even employed by our own countries. The casualties of landmines, amputees which only the most cold-hearted can completely ignore or Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, the children whose birth defects are an inconvenient truth for western tourists.

Giving hand-outs may seem charitable but where to stop, give to one and there is another a few metres further on. In some circumstances they can even start to expect a hand out, drop a coin into the cup of one beggar and another across the road almost insists you do the same for them!

Children often test the resolve of tourists; surrounding them, holding out their hands and asking for any change we have. Giving them anything encourages them this is a practical way of getting an income; if money is obtainable in this way why bother working. A new generation of beggars will hit the streets and this isn’t responsible tourism.

Travellers can also become blasé about the poverty witnessed, in a way ‘battle-hardened’ by being constantly bombarded from requests for money. We have probably all seen a weary tourist brushing aside the unwanted attention of children, even those not actually begging but selling. Excessive exposure to aggressive begging often causes the traveller to cut themselves off from it or in some situations escape from it altogether.

Is this exploitation?”

My personal decision is usually to not give any hand-outs, though I often take photographs of beggars as they make interesting subjects. I always ask and then give them some coins but am I taking advantage of their situation? Is this exploitation? They are clearly not in a position where they can afford to refuse, though a few have.

I have often struggled with my conscience over this. I have justified it by deciding that they’ve been paid for a service and I’m improving their situation with some dignity. I can only hope they feel the same way about it.

Responsible tourism maybe defined by not having an adverse effect on the culture or community visited. Encouraging begging will almost certainly have a negative result; apart from the short-term damage it will possibly affect future tourism. A destination which gains a reputation for aggressive begging will possibly experience a backlash in visitor numbers.

Those that make a living from tourism, providing accommodation, owning restaurants, providing food for the restaurants or producing hand crafted souvenirs will suffer from this. These entrepreneurs are the catalysts for kick-starting a local economy, as their business expands they may even be able to offer some of the ‘beggar children’ employment in future. Communities helping themselves is the goal of responsible tourism and of responsible tourists.

Ultimately providing hand-outs to beggars is an personal decision, prompted by the conscience and sense of responsibility of the traveller. Do you give money to beggars?

Aggressive begging in contrast to responsible tourism in Old Havana.Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

Expecting a hand-out

*This article has unfortunately since been removed

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  1. Jim O'Donnell

    Another thought-provoking post from you. I really appreciate it. I dont think I have a set policy but in general, I tend to give. Even a bit. I’ve been very poor at times and even, for a short period, homeless. When that happens, you go into a mind set where you cant see more than 6-12 hours in advance. Your world narrows to one of extreme survival – and it is so hard to break that mindset. I dont fault people who cant break it and who get stuck. I have great compassion for the poor and am a strong supporter of social programs.

    So. All that said…I have found in many places – Marrakesh being the worst – is that once you start to give, you become a target. By my third or fourth day there, for example, there were literally dozens of beggars waiting for me outside the hotel every morning. It was awful. I had established a reputation has a giver/sucker and everyone wanted to take a shot. Terrible. From then on, I’ve been more thoughtful in HOW I give.

    One funny story. I once had a job in Lyon, France. I was brutally broke and was camped out with some Algerian students in a run down apartment. I walked every day to this job. On the way I passed a beggar. I gave him one franc every single day with the thought that – at least I have a place to stay. Over the months, my shoes wore out and I didnt have enough money for new ones so I duct tapped them. One day, just after I had saved up enough money for a plane ticket home, I walked past this guy, tossed him a franc and he said “Wait!” Then he handed me 40-50 francs and said “go buy some shoes for God’s sake.”

    Yup.

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      Iain

      Thank you for sharing that Jim, I appreciate your candid and honest comment. It means you also have a better persepective as although we may try to appreciate being homeless most of us cannot really.

      Sorry to hear of your experiences in Marrakech, many of us have also witnessed how mercenary it can become out there, it is one of the least attractive sides to Moroccan culture. Though it is not isolated to there as you mention.

      That final story is funny but also sheds light on the fact that some are really scamming us and have more money than they would have us believe. Another example is a seller of the ‘Big Issue’ mentioned in the article that turned out to have his own expensive apartment and not evren a mortgage. At least he obviously appreciated your generosity.

  2. Marina

    I never gave to beggars when I lived in NYC-mostly because that city has incredible social services for the poor/needy. There are soup kitchens everywhere, and there’s a service you can call (just dial 311) to report anyone who looks ill or particularly desperate. It’s pretty incredible. I justified that since I often called for help when I saw someone looking particularly out of it, and the services were there, these people didn’t need my money for food, and I wasn’t going to support someone’s drug or alcohol addiction. In other cities around the world, I’ll give a snack or leftovers if I see someone who looks like they need help, but I never give cash. I just never want to feed into a scam or become a target like Jim (comment above). Slightly off topic-I always carried a little bag of doggie biscuits when I lived in San Francisco. A lot of the homeless there have pets, and I always felt awful for their dogs (cats too, but they’re less likely to accept a stranger’s handouts). They had no agency when it came to how they were treated or where they lived, so it made me feel better to give them a little snack.

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      Iain

      It sounds like you have a handle on dealing with those in need Marina. I also applaud your stance in caring for the animals as they do indeed often look in a sorry state.

  3. Cornelius Aesop

    I once wrote a story on my last days of Rio, where after months of shying away from most beggers I offered the last of my Brazilian change to an elderly lady sifting through trash bags. Only too be turned down, it was an odd exchange but one that left an impact on me.

    I’ve also heard storied of India where parents would intentionally deform their children in order to gain more pity and donations. I’m not exactly sure of the truth behind it but as a result, was told, a donation fund was created and encouraged as a location for tourists to give for the homeless to deter such bevavior.

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      Iain

      Both are disturbing stories for very different reasons Cornelius. The thought that parents would deform their children is shocking but desperate people will probably do almost anything, especially as they probably have several children which they struggle to feed. The moralities of our own societies have little meaning in many parts of the world.

  4. Emily McGee

    I worked at a homeless shelter in the US for two years. Since working there, I tend to save up a big lump sum and donate it to organizations that work with the homeless. I saw first hand that many of our clients never panhandled, and those that did often had severe addictions, which is why they were asking for money. Giving directly to the shelter helps those who need it, but who don’t panhandle on the streets.

    Now I am living in Nairobi, Kenya and the situation feels different. Kenyans tell me that people begging here really do use the money to buy food or pay for housing. At the same time, there are so many more extremely poor people here and very few services. Sometimes I hand over change, but usually I don’t because it’s not a very safe place to be walking alone and I don’t want to take out my wallet. I’m sure there are plenty of places where I could donate my time or money though, I just need to do a little research.

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      Iain

      I like your take on donating in major western cities Emily, donating to shelters which aid the homeless and needy seems a much more sensible policy than putting the miney into the hands of possible addicts. I also agree that in places like Nairobi it is much more likely donated cash will be spent on food or clothing. Please inform us here if your research yields any good advice for donating in Kenya or anywhere else for that matter.

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  5. Bernie Thornton

    If you are concerned for homeless people, instead of giving to them directly, why not make a donation to Shelter or a similar charity in the country that you are visiting? That way you can be more sure that the money you give will be put to good use.

    I have heard that in places like India and Pakistan that people are abducted by criminals gangs, then mutilated and forced to beg.

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      Iain

      Thanks for the tip Bernie. You are the second person that has highlighted deliberate mutilation as a means of illiciting more sympathy. Although criminal gangs are bad enough parents doing so as already mentioned is even more disturbing and sickening.

    2. Akaisha

      Hi Bernie,

      I definitely agree about giving to the local organizations who know just what is going on in their world and are the ones to best take care of their situations. I, too, have seen mothers who drug their babies and say they are sick in order to get more money. I do not doubt that there are those who mutilate in order to obtain more money. I have gotten sickening feelings at times, and so the “simple answer” of just giving money so I feel better about myself… isn’t so simple.

      Thanks for bringing up this (ghastly but true) point.

  6. Linda

    My policy is the same as yours basically, though at times it pains me when folk lump together their perceptions of “beggars/the homeless.” In Rome a few years back I ignored many beggars, but gave to an old lady who was crippled and looked about a hundred years old. My friend was horrified that I’d given at all, and I was aware the woman might have been “a fake,” but sometimes you just have to make a judgement and give in spite of logic I think.
    On the steps of the building where I worked a few years back, every morning there was a meeting of a gang of beggars, dividing up the territory so far as I could make out. Having lunch in an adjacent bar one day, one of these women swung by, her “gypsy” skirt flowing in the breeze, her eyes apparently brimming with tears. I was especially cheesed off that day, and remarked that I saw her every day, and she had more clothes than I did. She retorted that her clothes came from Caritas, but then how come she had a clean, pretty skirt every day? Did Caritas really have an endless supply of gypsy skirts I wondered? If her clothes really were cast-offs then surely they would have been varied and not like a “uniform” to convey a certain image each day?
    I speak about Europe here, but the other thing which annoys me is that this, particular gang wasn’t Spanish. OK you can become down and out when you’re living elsewhere (believe me, I’ve imagined that scenario!), but I do think that there needs to be a stricter policy within Europe regarding begging. In so much as, I am totally in favor of freedom of movement and labor, but why should the perception of Tenerife, for example, be tarnished by beggars from other countries who come here specifically to appeal to tourists?

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      Iain

      Very good points Linda, exporting of beggars to destinations with more tourists does seem very wrong but sure it happens, whether it be Tenerife or big cities like London or Paris. Begging in large western cities as you also mentions tarnishes their image, we seem to expect and be more tolerant of it in places like Africa, Asia or even the Caribbean.

      That there are organised gangs and ‘beggars’ that fake their circumstances means we need to show even greater care whom we donate cash to when travelling or even at home.

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  7. Emme Rogers @Roamancing

    Excellent post Ian.

    I am a sucker for children alone on the street that appear to be homeless. I have been told though that they are often sent to do so by adults, and giving them money, often results in them being sent out to beg, rather than being sent to school.

    So now I either give food or to local charities that help actual street children.

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      Iain

      Thank you Emme. This is a huge part of the problem, knowing whether giving money is actually a good thing, many are just lining the pockets of criminal gangs, using kids to part tourists of their cash.

  8. Akaisha

    This is an excellent topic, and glad that you have written about it honestly. I like your definition of responsible tourism and your common sense approach to the heartrending truth of beggars in these undeveloped countries.

    My husband and I have been traveling the world for over 2 decades. We tend to give food instead of money, but not exclusively. Those with obvious physical maladies always grab at my human sensibilities and often I will give them my coins or small paper money. One must use a keen eye at times so that “a new generation of beggars” isn’t created as you say, and it can be a delicate balance. If there is some sort of trade involved – work done for money received – we choose that.

    I appreciate it that you touch on topics that many travel writers wouldn’t discuss.

  9. Anne

    I do one of two things:

    1) Once a day, I give an amount of money to one person that can make a difference in their life for a day or two. In India, for example, the equivalent of $1-5 can feed someone for a couple of days. It’s always given to someone who is not tugging at my sleeve – but one who is off to the side.

    2) Before I leave on a trip, I donate a larger amount $25-100 to an organization that specifically serves the part of the world or country to which I am traveling. Then, when I say no to a zillion kids, I at least have softened some of my Western guilt.

    I, too, hate feeling like a walking ATM instead of a person. . .

  10. sandra macgregor

    I have experienced a similar kind of guilt and inner turmoil about whether or not to give–though a slightly different version. I am from Canada but living in Cape Town, South Africa and I suffer a lot of White Guilt by not hiring a (black-African) gardener or maid as most people have here. I wrote about it here (http://sandra-macgregor.com/acanadianincapetown/2012/06/general-musing-on-south-africa-white-guilt-does-not-hiring-a-gardener-make-me-a-bad-person/). It is really hard to know what to do.

  11. Cristina

    This post certainly resonates with many travellers. We have the privilege and financial means to see the world and travel at our disposal but sometimes we forget it’s a privilege and unfortunately not many others can live the life we’ve been awarded. So it’s especially important for me to give back whenever possible. On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic we brought along a large duffle bag full of clothes for adults and kids, books, paper, pens, markers and left it for the maids and workers of the resort – whom of which live in poor local neighbourhoods outside of the luxurious resorts and who are struggling to provide for their own families.

  12. Virginia

    Back in the United States I am the poor of the poor. I live on less than 12K a year and barely make ends meet. I know that I am rich to those in other countries, but I still have that ‘I am poor’ mentality. As far as giving to the poor begging on the street…never. I will however buy gum or candy from a mother (but not her children). I think this is an issue that we all have to come to a personal policy on. It is not possible to give to or save every beggar on the street, but helping one out every now and then, especially those who are working hard at trying to make a living, is a must for my soul.

  13. Desert Warrior

    Well I’m going to put my 2 cent; I’m a U.S. Disabled Veteran that served in the Armed Forces of the United States for well over 10 years. When I was in the service I was very well paid and the service took good care of me, for the American people I was a hero and when wearing my uniform people came out and thank me for my service. Unfortunately here in the U.S., allegedly the greatest country in the world after you become wounded and cannot longer function properly and you leave the military service you become a zero to the left and now I’m a burden to society.
    Unfortunately for me after my military service I became homeless, but of course I was too proud to beg or to ask for any help as in the U.S. being poor is a major and been down in your luck is a major sin. During my sting as a homeless man, I was spit on, attacked with verbal slur and someone once have the need to relieve themselves over my body. Luckily at some point someone volunteer (So you know I did not ask for their help) and I was able to focus, regroup and restart my life.

    But before you write an article or comments about beggars and homeless people and post their picture like they are freaks you should do your homework. Just so you know the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And approximately twice that many experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our wonderful cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.

    Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year (National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 2006). 97% of those homeless veterans will be male (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008). While there may be some help for veterans, some veterans are too proud or ashamed to ask for help and even VA workers look down on us as we are pigs.

    So I’m not going to tell you to give or not give but keep in mind that you don’t know the situation and/or the reasons as to why those people are sitting in the streets. But I can guarantee you that some of those people at some point in their life defended your way of life while you get to tour the world.

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      Iain

      First thank you for taking the time to comment but as you also point out you do not know my circumstances as if you had done your homework and read my bio you would also know I was a serving soldier for most of my adult life, long before I started touring the world.

      The actual post was regarding the homeless abroad in the developing world, which was pointed out as differing from the original article it was based upon. If you also read the comments you will have heard people recount their experiences with refusals of food, casting doubt on the starving and possibly having an ulteria motive for begging specifically for money. Criminal gangs and even parents deforming their children to gain additional sympathy and a more viable begging commodity. None of these things in my opinion should be encouraged.

      I have the greatest respect for ex-members of the armed forces and it is a sad state of affairs that so many are currently down on their luck and struggling on the streets. I am obviously unaware of the welfare system in the US that attempts to provide for the homeless which is why I chose not to write about that but purely from a developing world, travelling point of view.

      If the money was going to the people we actually wanted to help and guaranteed to be used for purchasing food etc there would not be any need for an article like this as few would have any issue with donating.

      None of those images were taken in the US or in any western city for that matter, they posted as pertinent to the article.

      I am extremely pleased that you managed to get some assistance and turn your own situation around.

  14. Guy

    These are complex questions and the virtuous path is different depending on where you are and what the situation is.

    I think that anytime you’re photographing someone’s misery (i.e. the thing that makes them “interesting” subjects) for your personal edification you are engaging in rather tactless exploitation. This is something I never do as a photographer and I am continually amazed at the number of travelers who are willing to post photos of homeless people in a seeming attempt to make their street photography seem edgy (or “interesting”).

    Giving something in exchange (money) might make that less tactless but that depends on how people respond to being photographed in that place. A Mayan Indian in Chiapas doesn’t want to be photographed by tourists but for the right price (surely something your wealth can afford) it can be done. A beggar in India may consider it a fair trade, but then again in India strangers will approach you and just ask to be photographed. Many there seem to enjoy the interaction and experience.

    If you’re photographing people’s misery for some higher self-less purpose (real actual journalism, fundraising, etc) that is not exploitation.

    As for giving money to beggars, you have to remove yourself completely from the question. This is not about you, your conscience or your feelings. The only thing that matters is whether the money is going to improve people’s lots, both on a micro and macro scale.

    Buy a piece of fruit and give it to a child in Africa thinking you’re feeding the child but in reality the child is taking the fruit back to her mother to be resold. You didn’t feed the child but you did provide some income to the family (albeit in a roundabout and deceptive way) but you’re also decreasing the odds that the child will ever go to school.

    Pool your money and buy a wheelchair for the legless beggar crawling the streets in Ecuador and you may find out he’s sold it and arrives by taxi each day and prefers to crawl so as to collect more money. Is his situation still desperate enough for you to part with your money?

    Give some change to a panhandler in Seattle who has tracks on his arms. He may use it for drugs but he’s also got to eat. Does his addiction really change the fact that his situation is desperate and yours isn’t?

    Give money to a child in Delhi who is practically enslaved as part of an organized gang of glue-addicted beggars with the profits going to the ringleaders. The kid has to bring in his share or the consequences are even more dire. Are you doing more harm than good?

    Some things you can do:

    * Take your cues from the locals. After all, you’re not so arrogant as to suppose you have a better way when you don’t even understand the situation, are you? If they give, you give.
    * Give to reputable institutions, like Salaam Balaak Trust in Delhi, the Children’s Receiving Home in Sacramento, or to a food bank or shelter
    * Try to educate yourself about the local situation so you can be guided both by your emotional and intellectual intelligence
    * Above all else, talk to people and treat them like your fellow human beings, especially children, who often just wanted to be treated like kids

    The veteran’s points above stand, IMO. You can’t dismiss him for not being abroad. These are, in many ways, universal challenges.

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      Iain

      Thank you Guy I totally agree it is a complex situation and one that each individual needs to make their own informed decision about based on their experience, knowledge and possibly react to how each individual encounter presents itself.

      I was not dismissing anybodys situation just pointing out that the article was not directed at homeless in major western cities. Unfortunately there have been a number of reported cases of relatively well off people using begging as a source of income in my own country. It was not my intention to discuss this as this had already been done in the original article.

      The fact is the piece is not about the homeless in the US or any other western civilisation but those we encounter in developing coutries. I have little knowledge of the welfare system for homeless or otherwise in the US. It is therefore beyond my scope to comment, I do not comment about subjects I have little to no knowledge of. Maybe those concerns should be addressed to the author of the original article which prompted this post.

      I totally agree that giving to reputable institutions that genuinely assist the homeless and poverty stricken is a viable and worthwhile method of assisting in a way that the donater can be sure the money will be used correctly.

      In my opinion apart from the first example you provide I would refrain from giving, this would be my personal choice as I have no intention of encouraging abuse of any form. Saying the children will be worse off if they do not bring in their share, whilst I do not wish to see children punished for something that is beyond their control I will not fund the gangs that abuse them in the first place.

      I have to say in all the countries I have travelled locals giving to beggars is something which I have witnessed very rarely, most have enough difficulty feeding themselves. The only ‘locals’ that do are usually the very well dressed privleged few that live in the wealthy suburbs of the cities, they are in fact us just living in that country.

      In fact in most countries talk to the locals and especially the guides and they will actively discourage any giving of money to beggars and childrne in particular. They are often adamant that this is not responsible tourism and in the long run will prove detrimental to their society as a whole workforce generation become the beggars of the future as it appears to be the easier option.

      I have also found from experience that many of those begging are extremely reluctant to talk at all, there have only ever been a handful of exceptions to this. Finally in some countries is prevalent to such an extent it is not only the homeless or children but almost every person that you come in contact with expects a ‘gift’.

      I reiterate it is up to every individual how the react to begging and whether they give or not, in my opnion however, it is often detrimental to the long term society in general and is not a responsible way to travel.

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      Iain

      Oh and incidentally it is a shame you feel my images are gratuitious attempts to ‘liven’ up my site and have the article appear ‘edgy’. I believe they are pertinent to the post, I also feel it is important to discuss such topics and for that I do not apologise.

  15. Guy

    Something tells me this isn’t the only time you’ve photographed the homeless and IMO it is questionable whether this post serves to improve their lot or simply liven up your site. What was it again that gave me that impression? Ahh, yes:

    “though I often take photographs of beggars as they make interesting subjects.”

    Perhaps you meant to say:

    “though I often take photographs of beggars for humanitarian purposes.”

    To be clear, I was raising some questions that your article didn’t address but I wasn’t presupposing how you or I should answer them.

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      Iain

      Yes Guy something did tell you it is not the first time I have photographed the homeless, I did …… I pointed out myself as you quoted “I often take photographs of beggars as they make interesting subjects.” and no I did not mean for humanitarian reasons, they do make interesting subjects! I enjoy taking photographs, particularly of people and the homeless are integral parts of many societies, ignoring their existence does not really portray a destination accurately. Maybe some would disagree and only point their cameras at the pretty landscapes on their travels.

      I also pointed out that it has troubled me at times, although they have been asked and paid for their ‘services’ am I exploiting their situation? I remain unsure.

      I never claimed the article was about improving the ‘lot’ of the homeless just questioning whether it was responsible to continue to dole out cash in questionable circumstances or at least ones in which we are uncertain of the situation. In is an opinion piece and, my opinion it is not necessarily the right opinion but is made with the evidence and discussions I have had with some of the people that actually live in these areas. It is of course written to ecourage people to comment and debate, thereby livening up my site.

      The questions you raised which I didn’t address were hypothetical which I don’t usually deal in, I prefer to deal with things that can be quantified.

      Your opinion is that the post is merely to ‘liven’ up the site, that is your opinion Guy and you are entitled to it, thank you for taking the time to comment.

  16. Guy

    I couple years ago I saw a guy passed out on the street with his penis hanging out of his pants and a puddle of urine around his face. It was quite an interesting scene and certainly part of the landscape in that area. Worthy of a photograph and a blog post? I imagine it would have attracted some hits.

    I certainly didn’t take my camera out, and it’s not just the severity of scene that dissuaded me.

    Anytime you’re taking something from someone and not giving back you’re engaging in exploitation. I prefer not to do that to the downtrodden.

    That’s not ignoring them – it’s recognizing that I’m neither a journalist nor a humanitarian.

    So I’m curious – how do you decide if you’re going to take that shot or not? Is it simply based on whether or not your spidey sense tingles (“it has troubled me at times”)?

    Your experience talking to homeless people and taking cues from the locals obviously differs from mine. I gave a few pesos to a guy at lunch today because the locals at the table next to me did. This wasn’t at an upscale tourist joint either, a local dive. A couple years ago I saw a blind homeless man enter a bar and collect a few coins from the bartender. That bartender sees that man every day and knows the local customs and situation far better than I. I gave to and I didn’t have to think about it.

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      Iain

      Guy I imagine just about every traveller has seen similar situations and decided not to take a photograph or you are not anything unique in that concern. Downtrodden did you actually check to find out if he was not drunk? I have seen drunks in much worse states than that.

      Personally I do not wish my site to be one dimensional and just concentrating on the nice places to travel to, I also intend to stimulate thought and discussion. Provided I can genuinely justify the image warranting being taken and is not obviously exploiting somebody, that it may have a place in a future post of interest and possibly prick the social conscience of my self and others I will take a picture. I may after looking at it later for editing decide it is not suitable for publication.

      So you have found two occasions in several years where money has been given to homeless by the locals, one of which appears to be a barman that gives to the same individual everyday. Forgive me but that doesn’t sound conclusive to me?

      As I have repeatedly emphasised Guy it is a matter of personal choice but in most cases we have no idea what the situation is and therefore personally I choose not to just hand over money as all the evidence I have been given to date suggests this is the best policy.

  17. Guy

    So he was probably drunk, but so what. One can be down on their luck and drunk all at the same time. I still didn’t take or post his photo simply for being “interesting”.

    I think travel bloggers should hold themselves to a higher standard and publishing photos of people in various states of despair to attract attenton and ad revenue does not meet that standard.

    At first you said you did it to spark conversation on an important social issue. Even if the post was a bit lacking I was willing to roll with that but then you said it was purely because it piqued your interest. IMO – not cool.

    If your goal is to be multidimensional than I suggest you should step it up a bit and not be so defensive.

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      Author
      Iain

      Thank you for your opinions Guy, people tend to react when somebody comes along suggesting that they hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of us.

      As always I will continue to try to improve the standard of my posts and maybe aim to get close to the obviously higher standard of your site. Thank you again for your advice.

  18. Simon Flood

    I don’t think taking a picture of a homeless person is exploiting them. Offering some change here and there is also something I will freely do when on vacation or travelling. It really depends if I have change in my pocket. The odd coin could be spent on something random down the street that you don’t particularly need and won’t miss. Being homeless is not a choice most of the time I’m sure and often the problem lies with not being able to get up and start something. There are not many jobs for those who are without an address.

    A lot of countries we travel to do not have decent facilities or aid for homeless people and it is this reason I feel more inclined to pass something their way when travelling. At the same time you could argue that it does encourage begging, but to be honest, you have to be pretty helpless to start begging. No human in the world wants to have to grovel to survive…

    Saying that…I went to the Philippines and gave a decent amount of change to some children. The little beggars went straight to the ice cream man on the corner and about seven of em all got an ice cream each…

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      Author
      Iain

      Thank you for sharing your comments Simon, you make some useful observations and points, ultimately it is up to each individual traveller to decide for themselves how to react. As for kids buying ice cream, good on them, I would have too 😉

  19. Sherry

    Excellent article. Recently I’ve been struggling with this in Rome, of all places. A man approached me inside a Catholic Basilica where I was loving the exquisite art. He was barefoot and in rags and begging pitiously, even knelt down in front of me. I was so turned off, repulsed actually. It felt like he had dressed the part. In this rich city with charities all over, and second hand stores that give stuff away, there was no reason for him to be barefoot. I felt manipulated, then later guilty for thinking that, who am I to judge his circumstances? My policy usually is to set aside a pocket of change and when it’s gone it’s gone. I give to people without limbs and who look as though they cannot work at all, not to able bodied people. And I give entertainment funds to buskers because they are working hard for the money and I enjoy hearing live music. it’s a tough call. I think your article nailed it well. Thank you!!

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      Author
      Iain

      Thanks Sherry that Basilica encounter does sound like somebody that is as you say is seeming to play the part too well, it is often hard to tell the difference which is part of the point I’m trying to make.

      I believe in giving some money to street performers etc as at least they are attempting to provide a service even if they aren’t that good.

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