Have you noticed a rise in begging lately?
There have always been beggars in my neighborhood. You get on a subway train and someone makes an announcement that they need a few dollars for this-or-that, walks through the car with their hand out, and some people contribute. Or someone knocks on the door, not a teenager, and asks if you have any gardening chores that need doing. Or someone stands at a busy intersection with a sign.
I am used to these people. Many are scammers. One asked to borrow my lawnmower, stole it, and still hangs about the area, smiling at me like nothing's wrong as I drive by. I gave some money for MARTA to one guy and found him at the liquor store a few minutes later when I went out for sugar. That kind of thing.
There have always been homeless. There have always been people standing by the side of the road with their hands out.
What I'm talking about is a sharp, sudden rise in highly aggressive panhandling, people walking up to you, challenging you, blocking your path, looking you in the eye, trying to tell their story, hands out. Face to face.
I don't know how many are real but it's starting to scare me. Yesterday, one pulled on my arm inside the grocery store, handing me a note in English with a sob story, two little kids in tow. I got upset, she dashed off, but I saw her a few minutes later in another aisle, pulling the same thing. (This is a store that regularly hires non-English speaking immigrants, and turns them into fine citizens.)
I wonder, is it just here in Atlanta, or is it everywhere? Are these people really poor, or are scammers just getting more brazen? And in either case, what is it going to be like in six months, if things keep going this way, and people aren't fed, and the desperation grows in a state where guns are easier to buy than butter?