Found this article.....I have always suspected as much of these street panhandlers, this just confirms it. Next time you go to roll down that window, just think of this article: (copied in full text for those of you who might not be able to access the link) http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/...al/3532299.htm
Panhandling $250 to $300 a week
He spent it all on crack, didn't quit until it became too much like work
By MICHAEL HINKELMAN [email protected]
Reginald Tull was a successful panhandler. Photos, Jennifer Midberry, Daily News
IT'S NOT difficult to see why Reginald Tull was a successful panhandler.
He's a well-spoken, thoughtful and gregarious 36-year-old - somebody you might want to pal around with.
For five years he used those skills to con people into giving him money to support his crack cocaine habit.
But about a month ago, Tull checked himself into the Gateway Service Center, ready to become a "productive member of society" again. Gateway provides a "clean and sober" program along with shelter, treatment and transitional aid for homeless drug addicts and drunks.
As city officials and community leaders grapple with ways to curb panhandling just as the summer tourist season heats up, Tull's personal narrative is instructive.
"You can make a good living panhandling. For somebody who's addicted, why would they want to do anything else?" Tull said.
Last week, City Councilman Jim Kenney introduced legislation to amend the sidewalk behavior ordinance to give police more authority to issue violation notices and make arrests if panhandlers refuse appropriate social services.
Tull said he often took in as much as $250 to $300 a week. (The current minimum wage for a 40-hour week is $206.) Most of the tax-free earnings were used to buy crack, he said.
"No more than five times did I use it for food," he said.
Tull said if people had stopped giving him money, it probably would have helped set him straight much sooner. "But they didn't stop," he sighed.
Tull wasn't always a street hustler looking to score his next rock of crack.
He said he had a "good upbringing" and both his father and mother worked - he at the Naval Yard and she at the old Breyers ice cream plant in West Philadelphia. His parents are now deceased.
Tull graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School, studied computer science at La Salle from 1984-88 (but didn't graduate), even worked briefly as an office clerk at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in the early 1990s.
But he soon lost his job. He was hooked on crack and in and out of jail through much of the 1990s.
Tull said he started panhandling in 1996 or 1997, after he got out of jail for the last time. Most of the busts were for petty theft, shoplifting and the like.
"You know, robbing Rite Aid, simple assault, criminal mischief, those kinds of things," Tull said.
"I just did not want to go to jail any more, but I still had an addiction to feed, so panhandling became the viable option," he said.
Unlike being a jailbird, panhandling was "acceptable," he added.
For a long time, it was profitable and fun, too.
"I kind of turned it into a game for me...I checked you out, kind of sized you up," he said. "I knew who I could follow halfway down the block, or who I could say certain things to. I don't believe I was ever disrespectful."
Tull said most of his donors were urban whites.
He begged mostly in front of a Wawa at 11th and Arch streets, but also along the Avenue of the Arts.
Tull, who was living out of an abandoned car on Ridge Avenue, eventually became burned out begging for drug money and lining up at soup kitchens.
"Panhandling can become like a job, and it just got real stressful. I would think, 'Man, I got to go out and stand back on that corner and bug people and get rejected most of the time just to get some money some of the time,' " he said.
"I got tired of the runaround, the constant cycle of panhandling, going to buy the crack, using the crack..."
When other panhandler-addicts feel the same way, when they get sick and tired of the hustle, only then will panhandling stop, Tull believes.
When Tull walked into Gateway in early May at Hamilton and 9th streets, he said he was just looking for a place to sleep and had "no intention" of giving up crack.
In fact, many panhandlers drop by the shelter for a meal and a shower and then hit the streets again, said Frank Richardson, the shelter's director.
"Some guys just aren't ready yet," he said.
"I love using...I been doing this for 16 years, and it's been, you know, like a pretty nice thing, but I came into this program because I was beat and I was tired of living like that," Tull said. "I wanted something better for my life."
Tull said the support counselors at SELF's Gateway shelter - themselves former street addicts - broke him down. "They made me realize I can't have anything in life if I use," he said.
Tull and others are required to stay off drugs and booze and to take part in various forms of counseling and job training. Random urine testing helps keep them honest. The main work is done through group reinforcement and peer counseling.
Eventually, shelter residents move on to independent living and outpatient services. Richardson said about half return to the streets.
Most residents are men in their late 20s to early 40s, who haven't finished high school but have held jobs and have some skills. Richardson described Tull as "above average" from most residents.
"I have slowly learned, and through this program, I do realize I cannot do anything if I use. But if I use this program, I can't fail," he said.
"When it comes down to it, I want to be my own man."