Begging has been around for thousands of years.
Wherever there are a large number of people living together – usually in a big town or a city – we will probably find beggars. People that are down on their luck and in need. With no regular income to support them, they have no choice but to live on the streets and beg for money.
But are all beggars real genuine cases? Or are some of them professional beggars? These are people who claim to be homeless and without a regular income but resort on the charity and kindness of others to help them.
Are professional beggars a real phenomenon – or just a modern-day myth?
In the following monologue, we meet Colin – a man who makes a living from begging on the streets.
It’s not like I was really in dire need. I wasn’t. But it was so easy.
Too easy, to be honest.
The money you can make from begging is just unbelievable.
I’ve been doing this for five years now — yes, I suppose you could say I am a professional beggar.
But the first year I did it, I was a real beggar. I was a genuine case. I had lost my job, then I lost my house — I had nowhere to live. Things were pretty desperate.
My life was at an all-time low. I was on the streets. I slept in shop doorways, underground car parks — anywhere I could get my head down for the night.
I was begging — but not just surviving.
But I found that begging is like a real job. If you present yourself in the right way and have the right attitude, then you can make a lot of money.
About a year later, I was back on my feet. I had somewhere to live, and I had money in the bank. But I still didn’t have a job.
The job market in my city really sucks. There are no jobs for someone in my industry. I thought about doing other kinds of work, but the only vacancies were in places like fast-food outlets and coffee shop chains.
I couldn’t do that. I thought I was too old for that kind of job.
So I ended up staying on the streets, and that’s when I turned professional. I made begging a business.
For one thing, the money was just too good. I now make in just four hours what it would take me all day to make in my last job.
Plus, I would have to pay tax on whatever I earned. Begging is tax-free.
To do begging full-time was just a no-brainer to be honest.
If you want to be a professional beggar, I can give you some tips.
There are two things you really need to think about when begging — the first is, location is all-important. And the second is how you present yourself.
You can’t go to any main tourist spot in the city. Those places are just teeming with beggars and other people trying to scam money out of the tourists.
Avoid those places at all costs.
And the second is to make sure you dress the part.
That means shabby-looking clothes, not too dirty, or people will just assume you are a drug addict. You need to look down on your luck but still trying to get out of the hole you are in.
Another thing you can definitely try is humour.
I have used a sense of humour to great effect in the last five years. A sign with a funny message or making a little joke as people pass by is all the difference between people giving you money or not.
Humour goes a long way. It brightens people’s day.
People respect and admire someone that can smile through all adversity. They will think of you as a stronger person who is trying to make their life better.
And then they will reward you for it.
I know many people would really look down on me for doing what I am doing. They would say that there are people who are genuinely homeless and in real need.
These people rely on others’ generosity and kindness.
But to be honest, I don’t feel bad about it.
I was really homeless myself a few years ago. So I feel that I have earned the right to still beg on the streets.
It’s the government’s fault — they should do something about it. Give homes to the homeless, and make sure they have enough to eat.
But they don’t do that.
And if people want to give me any of their spare change, then that is up to them.
|dire need||a genuine case||pretty desperate|
|all-time low||on the streets||get my head down|
|the right attitude||back on my feet||job market|
|teeming||scam money||at all costs|
|dress the part||shabby-looking||drug addict|
|down on your luck||out of the hole||sense of humour|
|to great effect||goes a long way||brightens someone’s day|
|look down on||in real need||rely on|
|generosity||earned the right||spare change|
Reading Comprehension Questions
How long has Colin been begging?
Does Colin feel bad about begging? How does he describe it?
Describe Colin’s life when he first started begging. What were his circumstances?
Where did he sleep?
How long did it take him to get back to a good position in his life?
Is it easy to get a job in Colin’s town? Why/why not?
What jobs did Colin consider?
Why did he reject certain job offers?
How long does Colin work at begging to make enough for a full-day in his last job?
What are his two pieces of advice for begging?
Which place should people avoid if they are begging according to Colin?
What added extra tip does Colin suggest?
Does Colin feel bad about begging? Why/why not?
Who does he think should help beggars?
What do you think about Colin? Is he a good person or not? Why do you think this?
Do you think he should stop begging? Why/why not?
Could Colin have tried harder in getting a job? Explain your reasons.
Should he have accepted a job in the coffee shop? Why/why not?
How would you describe Colin’s personality? Is he stupid? Clever? Go into detail and describe what kind of person you think he is.
Do you think it is possible to become a professional beggar?
Do professional beggars exist in your country? Give some details about this.
How do you know if a beggar is real or not?
Does your city have a homeless problem? What is being done about it?
Should people give money to beggars? Why/why not?
Have you ever given money to beggars? If so, why did you do so? If not, why did you not?
In your country, can beggars work in organised gangs? Talk about this if you can.
FOR TEACHERS: You can use this lesson as part of your English or ESL class.
FOR STUDENTS: You can use this lesson in your own time to help you improve your reading and speaking skills. It can also help you broaden your vocabulary.
Was this useful in your English/ESL class?
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