The Beggar Removal Hotline
February 16, 2003 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Vietnam employs the Beggar Removal Hotline. To promote a more healthy tourist experience, Denang is employing a reward system for citizens who report vagrants and beggars.

Once they have been reported to the special telephone hotline, the people are taken to the centre where they have health checks and are classified according to need...healthy people are sent back to their home provinces, while those who have physical or mental illnesses are treated at the city's expense.

I feel strange saying this but I think the U.S. should adopt this system. I love beggars as much as the next guy, but cleaning up the streets and helping out the's a win/win situation.
posted by gwong (22 comments total)
Nah. They should go and find a job.

*snickers and backs out of the US-american thread*
posted by zerofoks at 8:55 AM on February 16, 2003

I wish I could do that to those folks that ambush me for charitable donations while I'm sitting in my car at a stop light.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2003

MegoSteve - that gives me an idea, lets keep a can of silly string in our glove boxes!
posted by mcsweetie at 9:17 AM on February 16, 2003

I once worked in a shelter where this would occur...the police would pick up vagrants, winos, anyone hanging out on the street - and drop them off at our shelter where we provided hot soup, a bed, medical treatment, counseling and referrals. It was cheaper than jail and sometimes we got people into detox or helped them back into some higher level of functioning.

But it was voluntary - they could leave at any time. Also, the dearth of services in the community was appalling. When state hospitals were deinstitutionalized in the '70s and '80s releasing thousands into cities and towns nationwide, the plan was to provide community services and half-way houses to facilitate adjustment and provide ongoing support. But the community based services never materialized to the degree they were needed, and many of these hapless souls were ill-equipped to reacclimate or function without some ongoing assistance - help that just wasn't there.

Maybe if we redirected some of the vast sums that we spend on the so-called war on drugs to substance abuse recovery programs, mental health treatment centers and job training and counseling programs for the homeless, something positive could be accomplished.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:25 AM on February 16, 2003

it's a win/win situation

Yeah, except for the beggars. Do you seriously think the government gives a damn about their welfare? They want them out of sight, period. The story you linked has the headline "Vietnam cracks down on beggars," and I think that about sums it up. Of course, that's fine with the previous commenters in this thread, and it may be fine with you (despite your claim to "love beggars as much as the next guy," whatever that means), but don't misrepresent the situation. If I see an independent poll that shows the beggars themselves overwhelmingly in favor of this, I'll change my mind. But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by languagehat at 9:27 AM on February 16, 2003

Now that I read madamjuju's excellent comment, the following should be engraved in foot-high letters of stone: "But it was voluntary." See, that makes all the difference. "Voluntary" doesn't have much meaning in dictatorships.
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on February 16, 2003

Out of sight, out of mind. Calling this sort of effort 'cleaning up the streets' is a bit callous in itself - these people aren't dirt or garbage, they're people.
posted by holycola at 9:31 AM on February 16, 2003

The demands:

1) You must sleep indoors even though you do not like to sleep indoors.

2) You must pay for, and be responsible for, a government approved permanent residence even though you wish to travel.

3) You must wear clean, machine-made clothes and personal accessories that conform to standards of "ordinary."

4) You must not approach people unknown to you unless you have been properly introduced and they are in your social class.

5) You must carry not less than $50 cash or you are a vagrant; but not more than $100 cash or you are in possession of "proceeds from the sale of drugs."

6) You must have two pieces of picture identification. Not easy if you do not drive.

7) You must have a mental outlook that desires the above.

If you cannot agree to all of these rules, then you are a "homeless person/beggar/traveler/vagrant/criminal."
posted by kablam at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2003

13$ to the person who drops the dime? If the Vietnam tried this program in the capital city, the treasury would be dry in a week. I suspect they used Danang because of it's size and high rate of foreign tourists. I suspect the Vietnamese gov't does not want visiting U.S. Marines handing out dollars to the poor. Plus they get to quell this beggar god plus the vietnamese get a humanitarian nod...but why not give the caller 3$ and give 10$ to the service committees whom take care of these folks.

on the so-called war on drugs to substance abuse recovery programs, mental health treatment centers and job training and counseling programs for the homeless, something positive could be accomplished.

agreed but the recovery system needs more professionals and more "recovering" professionals hence more education dollars for training, college, etc.
posted by clavdivs at 9:55 AM on February 16, 2003

... the objective is to clean up the city under a campaign called the five negatives - no drugs, no crime, no illiteracy, no hunger and definitely no beggars.

I assume the adverb was provided by the author of the article and not the government, but still, that's pretty cold.

I think if they focused on the other four negatives, for instance instituting some drug prevention and rehabilitation programs, some literacy programs, et cetera, they'd find that the fifth negative would to some degree solve itself without the need for creepy government hobo-reprogramming centers.
posted by Hildago at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2003

why don't we just adopt socialism like the Vietnamese?

*rolls his eyes*
posted by RobbieFal at 10:38 AM on February 16, 2003

I feel strange saying this but I think the U.S. should adopt this system.

Parts of it have, it seems to me. If you don't like looking at homeless people you can call the cops, get them busted for any number of 'offences,' and get them removed from the streets. For example, in Boulder, Colorado, according to a newspaper report this past week 20% of people in the local justice system are classified as 'homeless.' Boulder just passed a law on panhandling on medians, for 'safety' reasons. This is in a town where the cheapest place to buy is $150k+, you'd need to spend $300k+ for an average family dwelling, and a family income of less than $50,000 a year can count as 'low income' for housing purposes. I figure it would be cheaper to support homeless shelters rather than constantly processing folks in the justice system; but perhaps this would just encourage 'them' to stay here.'
posted by carter at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2003

I think that Vietnam is right on with this. It sounds reasonably humanitarian and it considers the well-being of the vast majority who don't transients approaching them.

It beats the system that I fantasize about in my surlier moments. Under that program, junkies could rattle filthy Dunkin Donuts cups all day long, but if they address or approach you, you could assault them.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:11 AM on February 16, 2003

I think that Vietnam is right on with this. It sounds reasonably humanitarian

Sure, just as long as you take the word of the government officials who created this wonderful program! You must also be in awe of the human rights situation in Stalin's USSR; here's a sample from the 1936 Constitution, a highly progressive document:

ARTICLE 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law:

a. freedom of speech;
b. freedom of the press;
c. freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
d. freedom of street processions and demonstrations.

Makes you almost want to move to Leningrad, doesn't it?
*rolls eyes*
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on February 16, 2003

I love beggars as much as the next guy

Boy, my mind's been set to rest.
posted by y2karl at 11:44 AM on February 16, 2003

1) You must sleep indoors even though you do not like to sleep indoors.

2) You must pay for, and be responsible for, a government approved permanent residence even though you wish to travel.

7) You must have a mental outlook that desires the above.

So homeless people are simply anti-conformists who like to travel and sleep out under the stars?

For people who want to drop out of the capitalist society, that's fine. For people who are wandering the streets with severe mental illness, that's not so fine.

There was a man here in LA who, for about a year an a half, sat about a block from city hall, 98% naked, covered in his own excretion. He became violent when anyone approached him, and the city was able to do nothing for him because he had the "right" to be there.
posted by 4easypayments at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2003

gwong, why do you hate America so much?
posted by webmutant at 1:46 PM on February 16, 2003

I agree with 4easypayments. Okay, I have problems with any stranger approaching me in public, but if all they do is ask for money, I can just say no. It's when they become verbally abusive or in one case, physically laying their hands on me, that I lose my compassion.

My opinion on the matter is that mentally impaired homeless people should be taken to get help. Others who chose to live out of step with the norm can take their chances, but I won't give them my money. Those that want to find a place to live should be able to turn to government resources for assistance. And our government does need to put more effort into helping those who need/want it, but it doesn't seem to be a pressing issue to most of the populace, so I don't see it getting better any time soon.
posted by lychee at 3:35 PM on February 16, 2003

From The Bay Area Homelessness Project, Economic Enterprises of Homeless People:

Louise Stark, in her article From Lemons to Lemonade, analyzes the research from seven studies conducted on panhandling from 1985-1989. Are all homeless people panhandlers? No. The percentage ranges from a high of 34.4% in Washington, D.C. to 6.8% in Denver. In one study the nationwide average was 17%. For how many homeless people did panhandling represent most or all of their income? 2.2%. How successful are they? Despite press stories of ""genius"" level panhandlers who receive hundreds of dollars, the average take is $7.00 per month. Experiments by Berkeley students in a homelessness class found that in a "jaded" city like San Francisco the take was very low: under $4.00 in one day. In a city unused to panhandlers, like Thousand Oaks, a student received $20.00 in a few hours.

Many homeless people feel strongly themselves that panhandling is immoral. For example, Lars Eighner in his book Travels with Lizbeth avoids panhandling at all cost and prefers "dumpster diving" instead. Perhaps it was the humiliation of asking for help and receiving a refusal, or perhaps it was the stigma of not working for what he received, but Eighner only resorted to panhandling when he became absolutely desperate. "Not working" is the primary criticism of panhandling.

Also, Should We Give Homeless People Money?
posted by y2karl at 4:15 PM on February 16, 2003

I love beggars as much as the next guy

Me too, but only these kind.
posted by Bag Man at 4:17 PM on February 16, 2003

From 54 Ways You Can Help The Homeless
By Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff

Understand Who The Homeless Are

Myth: They want to be homeless.
Fact: Less than six percent of the homeless are that way by choice.

Myth: They're to blame for being homeless.
Fact: Most homeless are victims. Some have suffered from child abuse or violence. Nearly one quarter are children. Many have lost their jobs. All have lost their homes.

Myth: They don't work.
Fact: Many homeless people are among the working poor. A person earning a minimum wage can't earn enough to support a family of three or pay inner-city rent.

Myth: They are mentally ill.
Fact: About 25 percent of the homeless are estimated to be emotionally disturbed. One percent may need long-term hospitalization; the others can become self-sufficient with help.

Myth: They are heavy drug users.
Fact: Some homeless are substance abusers; research suggests one in four. Many of these are included in the 25 percent who suffer from mental illness.

I rarely give money to beggars, panhanders often annoy me, especially gutter punks, but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to buy into the urban legends of the better off and clueless.

Also, wino panhandlers rarely annoy me. I like to garden and in summer, the prime panhandling season, I can often pass for homeless. When I lived on Capitol hill, I went up to Broadway to buy groceries after digging out a flower bed--I had on ratted out dirty beater jeans, beater t-shirt and a beater denim jacket with a sweatshirt hood. One of the local drunks went Spare Ch--oh, sorry, buddy! Never mind...

As for the kids with their sarcastic Have a nice day comebacks, don't play. They ask for money, walk on by--end of story. Saying anything to them is a waste of your time and theirs: they've heard it all 24/7 and will always top you with a better comeback. You can, with practice, learn to ignore people without making them feel slighted.

I used to loathe and despise gutterpunks because they can be so fucking unpleasant. Then I talked to a friend who worked in a teen shelter, who pointed out that they are, after all, human beings and walking wounded at that. After that, I merely disliked occasionally on an individual basis. It's a lot easier to deal with beggars and panhandlers if you aren't always grinding an ax about them.

Now that I've moved away from grunge heaven Capitol Hill, the Haight-Ashbury of Generations X & Y, I rarely deal with it at all.
posted by y2karl at 4:59 PM on February 16, 2003

Should We Give Homeless People Money?

interestingly that's what libertarian economist milton friedman has advocated!
It can be argued that private charity is insufficient because the benefits from it accrue to people other than those who make the gifts - again, a neighborhood effect. I am distressed by the sight of poverty; I am benefited by its alleviation; but I am benefited equally whether I or someone else pays for its alleviation; the benefits of other people's charity therefore partly accrue to me. To put it differently, we might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance. In small communities, public pressure can suffice to realize the proviso even with private charity. In the large impersonal communities that are increasingly coming to dominate our society, it is much more difficult for it to do so.
apparently he's also a staunch drug legalization advocate :)
posted by kliuless at 8:32 PM on February 16, 2003

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