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Take a drive into London from Dorchester and it seems that on every corner there is a man walking back on forth on the median holding up a sign: "HOMELESS, HUNGRY PLEASE HELP." I have never ever seen anyone on the corner of Dorchester and Hamilton Road asking the drivers for their spare change.

If you take the time to talk to the hustlers they will tell you that "they are hanging out their flags" in the hope that the drivers at the stop lights will take the time to take pity on them to drop a few coins into their hat.

For the most part the pan-handlers have lost any sense of possibility and are afraid to even dream of a brighter future.

Every real-estate agent will tell you that location location is most important in the selling of a property. In London East of Adelaide, the Dundas Street strip, you will not see any hustlers for change because you can’t hustle the hustlers who are street smart and not naive.

The flag wavers have learned their trade well focusing on the busy intersections that are controlled by signal lights. The hustlers know that the drivers have to slow down at the red lights and then they have your attention. Not a word is spoken but the ominous signs grabs your attention. There is more concern, okay pity on the hustlers, if it is a cold, snowy day where drivers are more inclined to give up more of their hard earned money.

In my observations women make up most of the "marks" who have bleeding hearts. The females assuage their conscience by taking out some lose change from their purses in the faint hope that the poor hungry homeless soul will not die of hunger.

The majority of the pan handlers are middle aged male flag wavers who are not really hungry or homeless. The majority receive Ontario Work’s Social assistance checks for $706.00.per month to help pay for their basic needs, shelter along with a OHIP card for their prescription drugs. For the most part there is little or no work done by those who receive their Ontario Works monthly allotment. You sign up and voila the welfare monies are there for your use at the end of every month.

We volunteer our help to the St Joseph’s Hospitality Center in East London on Dundas St where 90,000 meals were served last year. Monday to Friday; a full hearty breakfast including coffee/tea or hot chocolate costs $.50 A hot nutritious lunch delivered right to your table is very affordable at $1.00. Children age 14 or younger eat free of charge with glasses of milk to wash down the food. Diners are welcome to take home bread and pastry to tide them over to supper.

Ark Aid Street Mission across the road from St Joe’s offers up free dinners seven days a week for those who are in need of a free meal.. The same people patronize the soup kitchens on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Eating out has become a way of life for them.

Mission Services/ Salvation Army hostels offers up warm beds to get out of the cold. Three hots and a cot equals three hot meals and a place to sleep for those who are in most of need.

So you may ask: "should you give your spare change to those who hang out a flag?" . You are not really helping those who are truly in need of assistance. Begging is a long time profession going way back to biblical times were there were no safety nets to help the people.

Instead of tossing in a couple of coins into the hat of a flag holder you can really help out by sending your cheque to the United Way, Mission Services or the local food banks.

The next time you see the flag waver you have some choices. You can help feed the negative learned bad behaviors of the hustlers helping them to stay on the streets or you can choose not be an enabler. Perhaps, there can be positive change (not lose change) forcing the hustlers to look for an alternative life styles if you do your part? Don’t give the flag wavers your money.

Len Lesser is a counselor in Dorchester Ont.,

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com