Living in Lebanon lately has become more expensive depending on your emotions, on your way of life, and on your degree of pity and self-respect.
Now I’m just talking about car drivers. We spend a certain amount of money on petrol weekly to get to work and back home, but the amount that we always forget to calculate is the one you give to the homeless on your way there and back.
I’ve added to my weekly consumption 10 000 LL a day, which adds up to 50 000 LL a week, unless you work Saturdays and Sundays as well.
With the past wars Lebanon has been trough, the amount of homeless people increased greatly, leaving hundreds of children, women, and men roaming the streets, around traffic lights, waiting for any amount that might be handed to them by drivers. I stumbled upon this article which explains the daily panorama I get on my way to work:
“Whilst navigating the major roads in the urbanized cities of Lebanon, one cannot help but come across one or more youngsters spread out randomly throughout these cities, grouped particularly near traffic lights – where cars come to a stop. The children appear to follow a rehearsed routine: knock on car windows, look the passengers in the eyes and hold out their hands to either sell small merchandises or as a silent plea for money. It is noticeable that strangers, upon witnessing this phenomenon, would either regard it with a wary eye (suggesting that they are somewhat used to the instances of poverty) or are simply shocked at this wretched, silent cry for help.”
I would add the people’s reactions when they try not to make eye contact, close their windows and sometimes even shout at the children so they could be left alone. If you have a big heart and can’t help but fall for their pleas, then you might need to increase your daily revenue.
Now here is where the trick starts, few of these beggars are actually homeless children, being forced to beg their way into surviving, while others are part of organized crime where their parents might abuse them and force them to work; and others are orphans taken in by a “PIMP” and forced to work the streets like prostitutes, begging for money.
Unfortunately seeing the difference between the two might be tough, seeing that the illusion is perfect. My way of differentiating them is proposing to give them food and water instead of money, those faking it will refuse the food, and go off swearing; while others will look at you in utter idolization and thank you from the bottom of their heart, stuffing their face with whatever food you have provided them with.
Most of the children working for their parents or organized crimes are unfortunately not able to go back into shelter without having collected a certain amount of money, so if you see a couple of children refuse food, but keep trying to beg with an obvious fear in their eyes late at night, I usually provide them with a bit of change but also food, that they will not be able to provide their executioner with, and still survive the year.
Many articles were written about beggars, one, which I don’t seem to find any more, is about a woman begging with a child asleep in her arms. The woman that wrote the article tried to approach this beggar, asking to carry the child to let the beggar be able to eat properly. The woman strongly refused, and after extensive research the writer found out the reason behind the woman’s refusal; there are many cases, and here are a few: the child is drugged, with alcohol or actual hard drugs to keep him asleep or from crying; the child is dead, and the woman is waiting for the organization she begs for to provide her with a new one; the child is paralysed from physical abuse to stay stable.
I know what you might be thinking right now, how could a person be so inhumane? simple; their humanity was lost in wars, in home abuse, and daily fights with society and life.
Here are a few further reading you might be interested in reading, they explain what the Lebanese community is trying to do, unfortunately nothing is 100% effective, especially with the war in Syria adding up to the number of homeless and beggars in Lebanese streets.
Quite the eye opener, extremely morose, yet 100% true.