Beggars have always been drawn to the beachside resort community of Santa Barbara. The climate is mild year-round, and the residents and visitors are generally affluent. Local businesses have tried in vain to chase them away; the latest “Don’t Feed Our Bums” campaign featured signs and bumper stickers, to no avail. My wife and I became curious about one regular panhandler in particular. He was reasonably clean and well dressed, and seemed to maintain regular hours at the parking entrance to an upscale grocery store. His standard-issue cardboard sign spoke of his hunger, concluding with “anything helps.” Concerned that a cash gift might be used for alcohol or drugs, my wife bought a meal at a nearby fast food restaurant, and offered it to him. The panhandler turned it down, saying “I’m a vegetarian.” On another occasion, at the apparent end of his shift, we saw him picked up by a late model Mercedes. Beggars may be annoying, but at least they carpool.
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