Sunday, January 27, 2008

Panhandling Columbia Style Part 2

Back in April of last year I wrote a post about a panhandler working the LL Bean plaza of the The Mall In Columbia. This past week I had my second panhandling experience while I was taking a picture for another post of the Brunswick Bowling sign on Carved Stone in Columbia.

While I was taking the picture I was approached by a stocky fellow who appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties. His hair was cut short and he was dressed in typical Columbia casual (warm up jacket, sweat pants, etc.). He walked with big strides towards me. Before he got too close he shouted out “Hey buddy could you help me out so I can catch the MARC train into Baltimore. I just got out of prison.”

He stopped and added. “Look I’m just bein honest here.”

My knee jerk reaction was a quick “Sorry pal,” and he simply shrugged his shoulders, turned and headed off again.

As he walked away I began to have second thoughts. What if he really had been recently released by some local correctional institution?

There are more than a few of them in Howard County after all. I mean why else would he just blurt that out?

I liked the fact that he was dealing with his post penal situation in such an open and honest manner. I called him back over and laid a twenty on him. He was a little surprised and very grateful.

As he strode off in the direction of the Starbucks on the other side of Carved Stone I had two thoughts. For one, there isn’t a MARC station anywhere near here. Secondly, if he truly had just been released from prison then panhandling was probably a violation of his parole.


Kay Weeks said...

Another approach would have been to buy him a sandwich and cup of coffee and talk about getting a job and trying to re-enter society another way than walking the Mall. I do feel compassion for anyone trying to "make it" anew. You did show compassion, but then suggested he had perhaps violated probation. I believe we are essentially afraid of one another. This can begin to recede if we are open and honest with one another. It is more than civility.

wordbones said...


Sitting down and having a conversation with this dude was not an option. I was scrambling to grab this picture before rushing back to Ellicott City to meet my daughters school bus.

My comment that he was probably violating parole had nothing to do with fear. If I was afraid I would have never called him back. My parole comment has more to with my satirical view of the world.


Anonymous said...

My father volunteers for groups that help people from time to time when they're getting released from prison/jail. He told me a story this holiday.

On Christmas Eve (2007), he got a call from someone's mother who was in Florida at the time. She'd heard her son was released from a prison in Baltimore at midnight, given $3 and put out onto the street.

My father was contacted, found the man, and helped him out.

But, what a situation! All this man's belongings were confiscated at the time of his incarceration and not returned on his release. He had no money to get a place to stay, and it was nighttime in December in the northeast.

I honestly don't know what he would've done had my father not been reached, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are more people wandering around, begging, then getting a quick starbucks before heading back out into the night to get transportation to some sort of shelter.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and prisoner releases are supposed to happen during the day, and the perpetrator is supposed to receive $100.

Obviously this is not happening, but I would be surprised if the $100 wasn't in the pockets of those who did the releasing.

John G. Boyle said...

I ran into the same guy a little ways last night...

I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at one of the little strip malls by Supreme Sports Club, and he came over to my car and indicated that he wanted to ask me something. He was non-threatening so I rolled my window down.

He looked a little apologetic and started in with "Sorry man, but I was just released from prison and..."

And I cut him off with "...and you need money for the MARC train, right?"

He was NOT pleased.

I then mentioned that word of his request was now pretty well known. He turned and stalked off.

Panhandling is one thing, but this stuff REALLY gets under my skin.

wordbones said...

Now that's really funny!
Thanks for sharing.