jewel bush: Why are we teaching our children to beg?

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jewel bush

You’ve seen them at many intersections and overpasses across the city.

They weave in and out of traffic at red lights, often dressed in team jerseys or uniforms, their sweet faces so hard to say no to.

They work in teams usually. There are the sign carriers. Sometimes the signs are pithy and drum up sympathy. Other times, the words on the poster boards are a scrawl so faint you can hardly decipher the exact message. One thing is unmistakable, though. They want money.

There’s the crew that works the cars. They carry buckets or some other big container. The goal is to reach as many cars as possible in the short amount of time vehicles are at a standstill before the light turns green and people return to the hustle and bustle of their lives.

HB 1158, by Representative Austin Badon, which will soon be signed into law by the governor, makes panhandling a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $200 and up to six months in jail. I’m not necessarily referring to the type of “panhandlers” Badon seeks to criminalize – hitchhikers or the homeless. I’m talking about the aggressive culture of youth panhandlers throughout the city.

The kids are put on the streets to raise money to support extracurricular activities, cheerleading or AAU basketball trips, they say. I’ve seen some inappropriately dressed on street corners like young girls wearing booty shorts and tops exposing their midriffs. I’ve seen some twerking on street corners to attract motorists’ attention.

After a tap on your car window or after making eye contact, if you don’t roll down your window to give to their cause, I’ve seen some get snippy, use profanity even.

A few years ago, when my son played baseball for NORD, in lieu of practice one afternoon, the coach directed us to an intersection where the team was expected to shake the can. My son did not participate in this team assignment; a group of 8-year-old boys on the street begging for money. Having a chaperone nearby did not change my mind.

There is any number of safety hazards simultaneously occurring here. I’ve seen some dodge cars as they run back to the neutral ground to escape oncoming traffic. I’ve seen some not paying attention to the flow of traffic because they are too busy chatting with their friends. Not to mention, the dangers of children openly carrying cash on the street.

What lessons are we teaching the youth about the value of hard work by sending them out to beg? This is not fundraising. It’s badgering strangers for money.

Most times, I don’t doubt the veracity of the ask. I believe they are honestly trying to raise money to get to an out-of-state activity or fund some program. However, this method is questionable. It is troubling and problematic when we teach kids that it is ok to beg rather than work hard; or teach them to work hard at begging.

Apparently, this method does bring in the bucks because it’s so popular. But it’s a dirty little practice that blurs the lines between fundraising and begging. Fundraising is fundraising. Begging is begging.

There are many ways to fundraise; online, grant writing, partnering with businesses to share in the proceeds. Let’s train our youth to be savvy, money-getters. I relish the lemonade stand-premise, where kids are taught to start, own and operate their own enterprises.

I’ve supported more than my fair share of roadside car washes. I’ve purchased baked goods and candy and whatever trinkets they have made to sale. We should be fostering an entrepreneurial, business-minded spirit not encouraging them to walk around seeking a handout. Where is the creativity, innovation in youth panhandling?

I prefer the methods where supporters receive something in return, where a dollar is earned not bummed.

jewel bush, a New Orleans native, is a writer whose work has appeared in The (Houma) Courier, The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and El Tiempo, a bilingual Spanish newspaper. In 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers Collective, a multi-genre group for writers of color in New Orleans dedicated to cultivating the literary, artistic and professional growth of emerging writers. Her three favorite books are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

50 thoughts on “jewel bush: Why are we teaching our children to beg?

  1. One of my pet peeves. Especially when the “chaperone” (if one is even visible) is camped out on a chair with their iPhone with no concern for the wellbeing of the kids. Bring back the car washes and bake sales!

  2. Interesting article. I’ve always been blissfully unsuspecting of the kids in team jerseys. All in all though, they bother me way less than the young-ish healthy-looking people begging all around Calliope/Camp, Calliope/St.Charles, … and the list goes on. I live in the Warehouse district, so they’re a daily sight.

  3. amen sister! It was especially distressing to see during Lemon aide day. There were literally kids begging next to kids selling lemon aide. What are the adults thinking (or not thinking). BTW I don’t think Badon’s bill will pass Constitutional muster if it is signed into law.

  4. I agree completely. I’m frequently at the intersection of Claiborne and Louisiana, which is a real hot spot for this activity, and I worry about the kids in rush hour traffic. It’s dangerous, and I’d rather support them doing some other activity.

  5. Great topic! This is a personal peeve of mine as well. It is appalling that there is a whole generation being taught that if you want something, just hold out your hand and someone else will give it to you. And, I guess I’m the pessimist in the crowd because I absolutely question the validity of some of the groups I see. An unmarked football helmet in hand does not make one legit.

  6. Couldn’t agree more, it is a dangerous practice to put kids in heavy traffic to beg. Hopefully, this law will be applied to the child beggars as well as the adult panhandlers and it will be used to prosecute their parents for child abuse. However, it is doubtful it is constitutional unless it is limited to specific situations like disrupting traffic, and doubtful NOPD under this administration will enforce any quality of life issue that doesn’t make dollars for the administration.

  7. Almost every corner on every part of town has people begging.

    It’s become there job. It’s sad. Most of the these people look like they have A serious drug problem.. H

    • The worst part is that they can make some serious cash doing it. I saw a news report a few years back where a reporter went undercover and begged for a few days. He cleared well over $400 in about 6 hours, and it’s tax free! I agree that it is not a good idea to teach kids to beg for a handout from strangers when they need something. With the adults giving their blessing by either leading a group of beggars, or by “donating” money, they soon learn not to earn money and stand on their own feet, but to expect a handout whenever they want anything. I hope the law is found constitutional, and is actually enforced. I wonder how badly tourists are put off by this practice.

  8. I say this every morning. I’m so glad to see someone putting out there. I dissagree with teaching our kids that if we want something, we can just stand on a street corner, perform no service, and beg people for it. My youth group use to hold carwashes and never had trouble with the Shell station donating space and water, we just had to bring a bucket (which these kids have), soap and the sponge. I work in fundraising and there are so many options that are not dangerous to the kids and a hazard for drivers. I’ve always considered contacting the organizations sponsoring the activity to point this out.

  9. Shreveport Ordinance No. 28 of 2014

    1. Solicitation shall occur only during daylight hours.
    2. Solicitation shall not be conducted on expressways or major arterial streets or on any street where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph.
    3. No person soliciting shall stand in the roadway or the median and shall not enter the roadway except to collect the donation. Traffic must be at a legal stop to enter the street.
    4. No person soliciting shall knock on the window of a vehicle.
    5. All persons soliciting shall wear orange-and-yellow traffic vests.
    6. No person soliciting shall place a table or chair on the sidewalk, roadway or median.
    7. No person under the age of 18 shall participate in soliciting.
    8. Any person soliciting shall sign an agreement freeing the city from liability.
    9. Solicitors shall obtain applicable permits.

    Source: Shreveport Municipal Code of Ordinances

    • A list of rules on “solicitation” and a permit is required. Are they taxed on their “earnings” as well? This seems to encourage it.

      • Surely they need a legal definition of solicitation, but this from their newspaper is all I saw. From the article also in the link, it is pretty clear that only nonprofits will be able to obtain this permission.

  10. You do realize Mayor Mitch Landrieu himself suggested that homeless people go work the street corners, right? That’s his idea of “human services”. The fact that school kids and their guardians have been doing this for decades is just par for the course (plus added competition)!

  11. Jewel, thank you so much for writing about this. I almost wrote a letter to the editor last week about the same issue.

    Sadly, my motivation at the time was not seeing yet another of the aforedescribed crews jumbling through an intersection, but rather the sight of a basketball team raising money for a trip by holding a carwash.

    It occurred to me at the time that it was in fact the first time in all my years of living in New Orleans that I’d actually witnessed kids raising money by actually hosting a fundraiser. My partner and I were entirely taken aback by the sight of something that is the norm for weekends and long summer days everywhere else in the state, and, something we both reminisced about having participated in countless times as teens.

    I unfortunately don’t recall who exactly the group was now or where they had set up shop, but if anyone there is reading, I would like to say I gladly applaud your efforts.

    Carwashes, bake sales, garage sales, cutting lawns, painting house numbers and such are all proven means of raising money for community causes and are common activities for church youth groups, school clubs, bands, and sports teams with millions of kids around the country earning for their cause with hard work every year.

    Such activities are not just a mechanism for yielding income into otherwise underfunded causes. In fact, the true value of these fundraisers comes less in the form of immediate monetary gain but instead within the many social, leadership, and educational lessons learned. For that carwash this past weekend, the participating kids had to find a location, coordinate with the business owner hosting them, make their signs and banners, put the word out to their families and friends, figure out which supplies they needed, how much they could afford to spend on them and where to buy them, how to woo customers in, provide good customer service, and even how to take payment, give change, and maintain secure accountability of their well-deserved earnings.

    These are the true values of kids holding ‘real’ fundraisers. They are lessons that kids here in New Orleans rarely have the opportunity to learn. It’s the reason Girl Scouts sell cookies. Most importantly though, it’s NOT begging!

    Not only is it not begging, but it’s not a means of training children in the concept that expecting something for nothing is an OK route in life.

    The groups out begging at intersections, even if hoping to earn support for legitimate causes, do nothing for the kids involved except teach them to mooch and to ask for handouts and to expect someone to eventually give them what they want for nothing in return if they just keep asking enough times.

    It’s a terrible concept in every way.

    And then, there are the con men. I’ve been in more than one restaurant or coffee shop in Carrollton in which a recruitment meeting was taking place between a group of high school students and someone telling them how much money they could earn by ‘raising money’ at an intersection.

    The conversations are predictable, usually take place during school hours when the kids should be in class, provide a solid briefing on the art of the scam. Prospective recruits are told what to say, what to wear, how to ask, etc. And of course, they’re filled in on what the money split would be.

    Just as the majority of our ‘homeless’ beggars are dropped off every morning at their assigned intersection by certain ‘churches’ and picked up by the van at the end of their shifts, I would imagine the bulk of these kids begging on the streets are similarly ’employees’ of the same criminals. After all, if a school team were really out raising money, wouldn’t they have official uniforms or shirts on? Wouldn’t they be accompanied by parents and teachers? Wouldn’t they at the very least be able to tell you exactly what they are raising money for and why, and all that?

    Whether Badon has these groups in mind or not, this practice needs to end for the good of drivers, the good of the community, and especially the good of the kids.

  12. Approximately 14 years ago we (NORD/Morial Administration and City Council) banned all panhandling by any group affiliated with NORD. We established a travel fund for all NORD teams/groups that earned the right to compete beyond the regional level. We made a very conscious effort to assure coaches and parents that their children would have an opportunity to compete at the next level without risking their lives begging at intersections. We built funds into the yearly budget to support the travel fund. Panhandling is not only dangerous, but teaches children to have a beggars mindset…we have to do better.

  13. I absolutely agree, I’ll be glad to buy a muffin, cookie or cup of lemonade. I’d be glad to pay to have my car washed and I have done so in the past. Let’s help teach children the value of an honest day’s work; teach them that If you want money you have to earn it.

  14. Some times they are just a group of kids that do not belong to a
    team. At S. Claibourne and Toledano. Always the same bunch of kids, that do not belong to a team they just dress a like so you will believe they are… Just say no to beggars!

  15. Thank you for the article. I couldn’t agree more. I drive past Louisiana and Claiborne several times a day and hate to see these kids learning how to beg. It drives me nuts!

  16. Thank You – Thank You – Thank You! This bothers me so much. One of these kids WILL get hit by a car, and when that day comes the finger pointing will begin and we will wonder why this practice was ever allowed in the first place!

  17. Jewel, I don’t always agree with you, but you got this one right. It’s plain dangerous and the chaperones for these kids can’t possibly keep their eye on every kid, not to mention they are also on their cell phone or eating away, not really paying attention to the kids.

    I would hope the City and NORD educate these chaperones.

    This “begging” mentality could also be said for the musicians and street performers in the French Quarter. Why can’t they book a private venue and organize as opposed to just picking a street in the quarter or blaring away in City Hall? If they organize for a City Hall Protest, why can’t they organize for a private venue, charge tickets?

    And if these children can hold car washes, bake sales, and lemonade stands, why can’t the musicians book a private venue and promote their event just like the car washes and bake sales?

    • At least the musicians are working and providing entertainment, and usually do not interfere with traffic. I say in entertainment districts it add to the ambiance, but opposed to it in residential districts.

  18. Although some of what you say is true I know of one AAU basketball team that teaches respect when can shaking. When I have I give to the children trying to get one step closer to a finicial goal that is set that without can shaking might not be possible. At one time children could bag groceries but that had been cut out. So, when our kids are asked to sell raffle tickets, go door to door asking someone to buy candy or cookies its fine because the schools are asking the to beg for someone to purchase over priced items for a dollar store toy its fine. As a parent I wish that all the cold calls and pop up visits to orgazations would hand over a check that would sponsor the 15 boys on a 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th grade and one 7th grade girls team with 8 girls left because the parents could afford for them to be on the team had a way for them to EARN their money.

    • I’m trying to follow your point but it is difficult. I THINK you’re saying that you support panhandling children but you don’t support children having to actually SELL something or WORK to raise money. Did I understand that correctly? And did you mean that rather than having to work to raise money you want someone to “hand over a check” to sponsor groups? If that’s not what you meant, my apologies. If that IS what you meant that’s not how life works. People don’t get checks “handed over to them” for no reason. That would be a TERRIBLE expectation to instill in children.

  19. Technically this practice most of the time is illegal because the City of New Orleans requires each person fundraising in this mannor to have a badge that displays a copy of the permit from the City that is required for such fundraising. Most of these operations do not get a permit due to not wanting to pay the taxes owed to the City by such fundraising activities. Want to watch them quickly roll up shop, just pull over and ask the chaperone for their permit from the City

  20. I’m quite honestly shocked at your message in this article compared to your prior writings.

    It makes me confused why you don’t apply this culture of personal responsibility and work for dignity principles to your other long articles?

    How do you reconcile this set of principles against your opinions on means tested welfare and other tax subsidized resources that you yourself have stated you expect to be available to people?

    • Welfare support is by definition means tested.

      There is nothing confusing about the difference between a structured state sponsored program that distributes benefits based on need and some stranger hassling you as you wait at a red light. If schools and their activities were funded adequately (read: tax subsidized), there would be less of a need for students to beg for money.

  21. I COMPLETELY AGREE. I support children’s sports and other goals, but not like this. I will buy candy, cookies, go to a fundraising car wash, etc., but I won’t hand out money for begging. I’ve always thought that this teaches kids a horrible lesson. Moreover, as the person contributing, I often feel like I’m being conned – are they *really* raising money for a goal, or just standing there with a bucket? It’s not good for either party, so I refuse to do it.

  22. I’ve noticed that around rent time, you’ll see more (and smaller) groups of kids, dressed similarly, with Mama sitting on the bench while her kids beg. That’s when I really question their motives. The intersection at Claiborne and Carrollton is pretty bad.


  24. Thank you, Jewel. I think these same thoughts whenever I’m on Claiborne. There should be an ordinance against this type of solicitation. A lot of times, the children are young (elementary-school age) and the ‘chaperone’ is on the opposite corner, too far away if something happens. My concern is that the children could be kidnapped in an instant. I would be happy to participate in any effort you put forth to stop this practice that borders on child abuse. Find some other way to raise money for your ’cause.’ It’s a narrow, lazy-minded approach and doesn’t teach the children anything, just puts them in further danger.

  25. Ahh yes. I’m quite familiar with this attitude. Public Schools are just always “underfunded”.

    “Ok, much do you need?”

    Just “More!”

    You’ll never get a progressive to give you a number that will do it… just MORE.

    Public schools (like all progressive big-government ideas) require 2 things…

    More time, and more money.

    Everytime. No matter how much is spent (more per student than any country in the world). Just “MORE”. Keep feeding it.. MORE from the treasury. MORE!!

    Sure let’s ignore the results of the last 40 years. But just feed it MORE!

    • At first I though you were referring to the “too big to fail”bank bailouts needing More.More from tax payers,More from the FDIC backed security fraud and More interest for $ printed by the Fed. Reserve to loan the treasury to support this activity.
      Seems like Wall Street and the intersection of Carrollton and Claiborne have a lot in common! The intersection being more direct / no big lawyers wanting More there.

  26. OMG, THANK YOU for posting this! I thought I was the only one who HATES to see this. Not only is the practice potentially dangerous,
    it also fosters an entitlement mentality: “Gimme!” I get so infuriated with the so-called chaperones who, instead of cooling their heels
    in a lawn chair, ought to be on their feet somewhere, making cookies or cupcakes for a bake sale, or otherwise instilling in the kids a sense of having something to OFFER donors who wish to support them. Lord knows I’ve baked my shared of goodies for bake sales to support my kids’ teams’ activities, why can’t other moms do the same? Quid pro quo, okay?

  27. I, too, had trouble following this person’s rather incoherent post. Based on his/her username, “Ain’t to [sic] proud to so call [sic] beg”, I’m guessing he/she supports the children’s panhandling. Unfortunately, the reality of life these days is that adults often CAN and DO live on checks just given to them, without any effort on their part. This “solicititation” technique of begging that these children are being taught is just preparing some of these kids for adulthood, consider that there are a LOT of adult panhandlers all over the city too. I laughed when I read the phrase “respect while can shaking”, what does that even mean? These kids are not respecting themselves when they allow themselves to be put in a dangerous situation by begging, and their “sponsors” are disrespecting them by sending them out to beg, which implies that the kids are incapable of the creativity and intelligence that is required to be beginning entrepreneurs to EARN money. Right or wrong, many people have a very unfavorable view of panhandlers, people assume them to be addicts or derelicts or worse; by condoning this practice, people are allowing the kids to be in a position where they’re viewed similarly.

  28. Amen!
    Usually these activities take adult supervision and organization – hopefully we can keep spreading this message and parents, teachers, coaches etc., will step up and start proposing more enriching fund raising activities.

    • Thank you so much for dealing with this issue Jewel!! I get so angry when I see
      this on carrollton & earheart. The team of girls begging are very very disrespectful! When someone is kind enough to hand them something they dont even say thank you, not to mention how they literally snatch the donation out of
      the drivers hand. It is really embarrasing. They dont smile, its awful! Its like the parents are so busy on their cell phones, they rarely even look up! Todays
      ( september 11, 2014) I saw a homeless beggar arguing with one of the
      little girls from the “team” about begging in his spot! Stop this now.

  29. I get it, but the schools, commercials ( on Childerens shows) and other activities teach them how to beg from toddlers.

  30. You’ve said it all. I remember baking character cakes and having them auctioned off for my kids’ schools’ fundraisers, carwashes, bake sales; they even had pizza sales.

  31. I remember a time where fundraising included boxed dinners and fish frys. I’ve wondered if this has become the replacement for parents not willing to do the work and take the time to have a respectable fundraiser.

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