The Deservedly Poor Gimme Pigs

by admin on September 17, 2012

Several years ago, I became friends with “Buddy,” whom I met at a recovery meeting. We shared our experiences, and he had been down on his luck, had no home, and was living off the kindness of friends. However, he appeared to be taking great strides in his road to recovery to get back on his feet. After a couple of months, it became obvious (at least to me) that he was simply a moocher, pure and simple, who merely took advantage of people for a free ride. You know – look up “moocher” in the dictionary and see his picture.

Around that time, I started dating this woman (now my wife) who was looking for a roommate, and thought Buddy would be perfect. I gave her a word of caution based on my experiences with him, but she felt it would work out. Within a couple of months, she told him to get out.

A couple of years passed, and I had long since fallen out of contact with him. Out of the blue, he showed up at my office one day to say “hi.” During our brief visit, we were catching up on what was going on with each other, and he told me he was living on a ranch up north in the mountains. I said that sounded great, and asked him what he was doing, employment and what not. He wasn’t working (no surprise), and said he was on welfare. In listening to him, he was basically playing the system where he was able to continue a life of leisure at other people’s expense. He said he was now back in town because he was determined to re-enroll at the university and finish his degree.

A month or so later, I received a letter in the mail from Buddy at my office. (I realized that his “friendly visit” was probably to confirm that I still worked there and get my address.) It was a form letter that he was apparently sending out to anyone and everyone stating that he has been in recovery, was making progress, and wanted to finish his degree. He said he had exhausted all forms of financial aid, so in order to achieve his goal, he was asking the reader to “invest” in him by making a donation to pay his tuition! Included in the letter was a deposit slip from his bank account. What would we get out of our “investment,” he asked? Why, the pleasure and satisfaction of knowing he succeeded in getting a degree and achieved his goal of becoming a social worker!

I showed the letter to my wife, we got a good laugh out of it, and then I filed it away (you can probably guess where). Now I could look up “nerve” and “gall” in the dictionary and see his picture there too! 0913-12

I recently tried to tell a young woman wearing rose colored glasses that not all poor people are deserving of assistance.   Some people are deservedly poor, i.e. they will not work to improve their situation whereas the deserving poor are those who hustle to find work, keep work and do what is necessary to provide shelter and sustenance for themselves and their family.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

missminute September 17, 2012 at 4:28 am

Does this man’s effort in going back to school not constitute an effort to improve his situation? In my experiences with the unemployed, a great many people considered by the average Joe to be“too lazy to work” in fact suffer from mental illness, learning disabilities and personality disorders, sometimes had to spot from where we stand in a more comfortable position. I have never met someone who is so-called “deservedly poor”.

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Esmeralda September 17, 2012 at 6:37 am

My jaw dropped when I read this. I think tossing the deposit slip away and not bothering to reply to this bizarre request was probably the best thing. I can’t imagine Buddy had much success with his tuition scheme.

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The Elf September 17, 2012 at 6:50 am

Yup, I know some moochers too, including one person who told me that his goal was to be on social security disability (he is not disabled). When I snarkily said that I don’t mind supporting others with my hard-earned income he looked at me blankly. It became clear in further conversation that he really didn’t know, and didn’t care to consider, where social security disability checks come from.

I also know some people living on social security disability and other government largess with very good reason for doing so. You can tell the difference partly from their attitude towards their income (embarrassed, hopeful that it is temporary, maybe a little despairing, etc) vs. an undercurrent of entitlement. Also people who don’t want to be dependent on others but are through circumstance usually make good efforts to become independent, to the extent that their abilities and circumstances allow. While people who have absolutely no trouble with dependency accept it as their due and look for more.

I’ve also seen a couple of mooching friends (and family members) live off the kindness of friends and other family. Perhaps I’m just not kind, but I wouldn’t put up with that. I’d let a friend in a bad situation crash at my place, but two weeks tops and that would be clear from the beginning. Two weeks is long enough to arrange for a more permanent place to stay. To me, this is slightly different than the government largess mooching because it requires a willing mooch-ee. There’s somebody there who either feels sorry for this person or is unwilling to have the necessary confrontation to stop the mooching. And it will take a confrontation – people who *prefer* to live off other people don’t take subtle hints.

We’re all one catastophe away from poverty, no matter how rich and stable you are. The real insight to the person is not poverty itself, but how they work to get out if it.

I have yet to have any mooching friends come begging to me for money. But if I did encounter something like Buddy’s letter, I’d laugh it off too.

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Keller September 17, 2012 at 8:41 am

Having worked with poor people and those receiving social services/aid, it is astonishing how many people who are using the system are actually mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs or alcohol. (Often the addiction is caused by self medicating the mental illness). It is extremely sad and cripples the person from “working” to get off of public assistance. Society does not do enough to help the poor who are mentally ill or addicts. They are not deservedly poor-they are lost and cast aside.

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Jewel September 17, 2012 at 8:55 am

MissMinute — Yes, usually attempts to pursue higher education is evidence of effort to improve one’s situation. However, given Buddy’s long and illustrious career of being a world class mooch, any “college fund” donations are highly likely to never be used for that purpose. Should anyone ever inquire as to what happened with his college plans, Buddy will have a myriad of excuses as to why he’s not enrolled and where the money went.

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The Elf September 17, 2012 at 9:33 am

Missminute,

It might be an honest effort to improve his situation. Or it might be another mooching tactic. With his history and method of asking for help, I’d be skeptical too.

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Cat September 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

I made this mistake with a member of my family who was barely making ends meet on Social Security. I offered to cover her bills for four months. She took this to mean that I was her personal piggy bank and proceeded to spend freely, going through two thousand dollars before I put the brakes on her spending. When I said I’d pay the water bill, it was not a blank check to rip out landscaping, buy new, and run up a hundred dollar water bill to drown the new plants-in a condo, no less.
Now I restrict my spending to my church and to a fund for third world children being raised in poverty.

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Bint September 17, 2012 at 9:54 am

My BIL’s ex is deservedly poor. She refuses to get a job, smokes heavily and insists on having satellite TV. If you can spend fifty quid a week on ciggies, don’t moan to me about having no money.

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Lapis Lazuli September 17, 2012 at 10:11 am

“Buddy” is the kind of person who really makes me angry. He lives off goverment assistance and family and friends. He uses the “down on his luck” bit as an excuse to not have to work and have other people (friends/family/taxpayers) support him financially and to finance his education. He knows how to play the system and all the loopholes. That’s what his *real* education seems to be in.

I know that there are people who are down on their luck and have a need for help. I totally get that. At one time in my life, I needed help and was able to get it. But one of the agreements or rules for my receiving that help was that I would also look for work. The program I was in offered classes/training and you also had to sign up at the local unemployment office as well. But there was a limit to how long you could receive benefits ( I think it was about 18 months) and you had to prove you were looking for work. By taking advantage of the opportunities I was given and actually *trying*, I was able to find employment in 7 months and support myself. Tha was 20 years ago. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I was, and that some people may have mental and/or physical ailments that make getting and keeping employment harder, but simply being a “moocher” does not fall in that category.

This line in particular got my attention, “He said he had exhausted all forms of financial aid”- does this mean he did not get the money or did he get the money and it was not enough to cover all his school-related expenses or did he get the money and blow it?

Before I get lambasted for not being sympatheic to those in need, let me just say, again, that I do know and understand that there are many, many people in need and most of those are straight-forward people who want to help themselves and just need a little help until the opportunity they need comes along. “Buddy” is just a plain, flat-out gimmie pig moocher.

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Another Alice September 17, 2012 at 10:12 am

This whole thing makes me sad. It actually sounds to me like Buddy just truly does not have social skills. There are moochers who are well aware of what they’re doing, and there are those that just don’t “get it” that asking for things like that are rude. It’s amazing how difficult it is for people down on their luck to find ways within the “system,” as it were, to receive proper education/help. And I don’t mean a college degree – things like, How to Find a Job, and How to Dress Appropriately for Job Interviews, How to Secure a Loan for School, etc. I think when we are raised in stable, loving, knowledgeable families, it’s quite easy to forget how truly difficult it is to know how to do basic, ordinary things. We forget that we were, subtly and over time, taught those things ourselves.

It sort of reminds me of the typical college student (myself included), who never really got a formal cooking lesson from anyone, and then ends up eating frozen pizzas and Hot Pockets for four years. ;-) You don’t even realize for awhile that you don’t know something, or that it is something you actually have to sit down and learn, because it had never been a part of your life, and you’re taking your needs moment by moment. You almost believe it’s something others have learned by osmosis or natural talent, and that you either get it or you don’t, so you don’t try.

In terms of etiquette, I would not give Buddy money, but perhaps would spend twenty minutes researching any free organizations that offer information that could help him – such as the student loans, or job assistance, etc. Many people just don’t understand what’s out there to help them. Of course, it sounds like Buddy and the OP have a long, complicated history and it is well within the OP’s right to simply let him off. Sometimes people need that too – to just be let go and figure it out for themselves, as it’s the only way they’ll learn.

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Margo September 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

Iagree with MissMinute. While there are some poeple who will take advantage of others (and this isn’t limited to those who are poor, or on benefits) many people who are poor or claiming benefits are in that position due to a combination of factors which often include bad luck, bad health etc.

In this specific example, Buddy may well be a moocher, and of course OP was perfectly entitled to chose not to help him. It’s also possible that Buddy had made huge efforts to change, and was genuine. It does not sound as though he was rude or pushy in making his request, he didn’t harass OP, he sent a single letter.

It seems to me that the comment about ‘undeserving poor’ is a bit harsh in the circumstances.

I see a lot of people who are very poor, dependent on benefits – many of them, at first glance, appear to be ‘undeserving’, ‘moochers’ people with a sense of entitlement, and generally ‘undeserving’. When you learn a little more about them, in many cases that perception changes. I can think of a lot of people who at first glance look as though they are ‘undeserving’ but who, on closer examination, have survived all sorts of experiences so that one starts to feel they deserve a standing ovation for managing to exist AT ALL.

I can’t comment on the situation in the US, but I know that here, there are gaps in the support which the state can offer – so making changes (such as the change from being on welfare benefits, to gettting to college to try to pull yourself up by the boot straps, or moving from claiming benefits to working) can be incredibly difficult.Buddy might be a moocher, but someone wanting to get an education and get of welfare isn’t necessaily one, and asking for help deosn’t make them ‘undeserving’.

I’m very, very lucky. I’ve never been that person. But my experiience has taught me that even for those who appear to be ‘undeserving’ there is almost always a lot of [bad] luck in the mix,too.

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Nannerdoman September 17, 2012 at 10:46 am

I’d ask to see Buddy’s transcript.

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Shalamar September 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

I belong to a lot of online forums, and I’ve “friended” many of my fellow forum posters on Facebook. Recently, one of those people put a post on Facebook that was along the lines of having had a lot of unexpected bills, running out of money before running out of month, and not being able to keep her electricity running or feed her dog. She said “This is very difficult for me, but if any of you could spare something, it would help so much.”

I don’t know her in real life, but I’d seen her forum posts and therefore had already heard about her financial troubles, so I posted back and said I’d help.

A day later, she responded “That is so kind of you – but it turns out that my mother was able to help me. Thank you, though, I really appreciate it.”

That restored my faith in human nature just a bit, considering how easy it would have been for her to just take my money and keep quiet about no longer needing it.

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Beth Erickson September 17, 2012 at 10:49 am

You did the right thing-also blessings to you in your recovery

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Library Diva September 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

I know a “deservedly poor” person in my fiance’s family, although I’m not sure I’d class her as “poor.” His aunt is a mooch, pure and simple. She got a doctor to declare her “disabled” a few years ago. She bled her father dry before he died. You could always tell when his pension was due to come in, because that’s the day she’d come visit. She left her first husband and children because he expected her to either hold down paid employment or keep a clean house. Now she’s with someone just like her, and her grown children have very little to do with her. Now that her father is gone, she tries her routine on the rest of the family. She may very well have some mental health issues, but she’s in her 60s and has never shown any desire to change, so it’s hard to have a lot of sympathy for her, even though I’m normally inclined to be sympathetic.

All that being said, though, I think the “deservedly poor” gets a disproportionate amount of attention. I do believe that most people who are on some form of assistance actually need it. I also think that the type described above cuts across socioeconomic lines: I’ve seen many, many tales here of people who are gainfully employed but simply never choose to spend their own money if they can spend someone else’s instead. I actually put my fiance’s aunt in that category. Although her current husband is also a total mooch, I believe he does have some type of job, retirement, or settlement. I think they simply have the attitude that the world owes them. They view themselves as permanent charity cases, and they’ve never moved past the childlike attitude that everyone adores them simply for existing. When you’re a little kid, that’s true. As you grow up, you have to work at your relationships and give as well as take, and as far as I know, she’s never given to anyone, in any way, shape or form.

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Margaret September 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

You should send him a copy of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

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Ashley September 17, 2012 at 11:06 am

Bets on whether or not the donations towards the “college fund” would ever actually be used towards that?

I dislike mooches…

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The Elf September 17, 2012 at 11:10 am

I agree that the mentally ill are underserved in this country, and some of the fall-out of this is chronic unemployment. And it could be that Buddy is one of those with an undiagnosed problem, or is simply not getting treatment for his problem. The recovery he speaks of might be for a mental illness, or it might be for addiction that was borne out of mental illness. After all, it’s hard to get treatment when you don’t have the money for a doctor, and medicare/medicaid can be a nightmare. But sometimes it isn’t mental illness. Sometimes it’s just plain mooching. If we take the OP at his word, it’s a pattern of mooching, and I don’t blame them at all for not responding to a gimmie request from a previous moocher.

Along with a pattern of mooching comes a pattern of lying. It’s possible Buddy isn’t even enrolled anywhere.

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GroceryGirl September 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I love this site but one little pet peeve I have is that on almost every story there is at least one comment saying “maybe the person is mentally ill and that’s why they beg for money/ate all the food/stole the wedding dress/peed on your bed/etc”. Some people are just rude, selfish boors with little social grace and that’s all there is to it.

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Lynda September 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I had a friend who was underemployed and since I was working I would invite him and another friend to dinner at least once a week. On a special occasion I would invite him out to a nice dinner. Over time I came to see (we go to the same church) that there were a number of people who were quite generous to him which I thought was fine.
Then he got a job, a fairly good one. Then a better one, although he complained about it all the time.
He found a partner and we didn’t socialize in the same group anymore so it was a rather limited acquaintanceship.
His mother died and he and his sister split the funds from the sale of the house (a considerable amount) so I thought that he would finally stop complaining about not having money. (a way of getting other people to pay for his lunch if a group was going out after church, etc). Found out later he didn’t invest any of it but shopped and shopped and shopped.
I had been working and planned on continuing to work until 70 since my IRAs had already suffered (as others have) but three years ago we were all informed the office was closing and we were out of work. A little severance, thanks, and since we were not vested in the retirement program, there went that (expected) part too.
I tried looking for work for three years. I was overly qualified and in an industry that was downsizing considerably. I had lived on a very limited budget when I was married so I was used to doing without (what some people take for granted) and economising in many ways. I don’t like to talk about money but when I hear someone is living only on social security I know they’re not doing that well.

The ‘poor me’ friend asked me to pray for him as he had health problems (by email). I replied I would certainly do so and wished him well. He wrote back to tell me of all the various problems he had and how many drugs he had to take and how he neede some special sleep tests (he has a sleep problem) and so on and so on…
I was in a charitable state of mind but it still sounded like all the various complaints he’d had about his health before (couldn’t find the right doctor, etc., etc) and it dawned on me that it was the same person, just 2o+ years older.
I received an email from a female friend who told me that he had contacted her partner asking her for financial assistance because of all his health problems and he couldn’t work, etc…The other woman owns some property but with the recession she can’t find a job and the income from the property has decreased so she’s struggling as well. I was already aware of this AND HAD TOLD THE MAN LESS THAN A MONTH BEFORE ABOUT THE PROBLEM as he had mentioned something about her contributing more to the church fund.
So in the email she asked if I could help the man at all since his situation seemed desperate. I wrote back and told her my situation (in simple numbers) and told her I didn’t discuss finances but this one time I wanted to so she would understand. I also told her that of my disposable income I set a small amount each month to support what I considered a worthwhile charity.
The friend had told me of someone else who was trying to help the man but she didn’t have that much either…I asked the friend to let the other woman know I was not able to assist the man…at all, given my limited income.
The next time I was at church I noticed the man didn’t bother to say hello, which was fine. I did overhear him talking about taking a trip to Utah to visit some people he knew from Burning Man and I thought ‘well maybe they paid for his trip’.
The real kicker was finding out that as ‘poor’ as he has claimed to be, he and his partner still went to Burning Man (a rather expensive indulgence) and heard that he had said he really needed to go to cheer him up because he was depressed about his situation.

I guess it’s what they call the Peter Pan syndrome…the boy who never wants to grow up.
I pity him, really pity him because like a spoiled child he can’t understand why people won’t do what he wants them to do, give him what he wants–just because he wants it.
It may be a form of mental illness but since he doesn’t see it that way (which would require that he change) I don’t see a lot of hope.

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gramma dishes September 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I wonder what would happen if his intended supporters all sent him back a note saying something to the effect of “Sure, we’ll be happy to help with a small donation toward your tuition fees. Send us the name of the college in which you are enrolled and we’ll send the check directly to them!”

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Calli Arcale September 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I’ve known moochers. Boy, have I known moochers. Some of them don’t intend to be moochers, or don’t really realize what they’re doing. It’s a sort of mental illness, I think. They get stuck in a rut where they are unable to look ahead to the future and make coherent plans to get there. Once they see something that sort of works for the now, they hang everything on that. It might be a relative agreeing to put them up for a few months (which turns into years), or it might be an educational program. It comes from a habit of putting anything unpleasant or difficult off until an indeterminate future date, combined with a habit of finding excuses to avoid guilt. (There are, after all, two ways of relieving guilt. Solving the underlying problem, and finding a way for it not to be your fault.) I’ll get a job next week; right now, the bills are paid and I need to focus first on my recovery. Education can actually be a bit of a problem in this case; that opens up not only a new source of optimism that it’ll work out (and therefore you don’t need to worry) while also giving a ready-made excuse for not changing one’s situation now — I’m too busy with homework and I need to focus on my studies.

I don’t think there’s a DSM diagnosis for this. It’s more a collection of bad habits that become very deeply ingrained. Addiction can be the origin of these bad habits, and it will definitely complicate the situation by ingraining the bad habits even harder. Anyone breaking an addiction needs to learn how to live all over again, because the life habits they have are probably not well suited to the real world; they’re mostly suited to serving the addiction. The longer it takes, the harder it will be.

One thing is very important: you need to not enable the bad habits. Just like alcoholism, they have to realize they have a problem before they can fix it, and as long as they can get by, they have no incentive to do so. No reason to open their eyes to the horrible truth of what they’ve let themselves become. And like The Elf says, they get used to lying. And they get used to procrastination. It feels okay to lie if you believe you will just make the lie true later, before they have the chance to discover the lie. From there, it’s a short trip to lies being okay even if they never become true as long as they don’t find out.

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Chelle September 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

For the Record: most universities will allow a generous benefactor to make payments toward a certain individual’s student account – making the deposit slip unnecessary. If “Buddy” really wanted the funds for college tuition, he would be asked his “investors” to send their check to the University.

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kingsrings September 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I’ve seen quite a few people like Buddy, as I am one of the impoverished people right now. Some of my fellow impoverished are in the same boat as me – working and fighting like mad to get out of this impoverished rut, while some refuse to do anything to help themselves and instead mooch off the government and friends/family. They’re not disabled or mentally ill, they’re just moochers. They constantly beg money off of people, are always getting injured on the job, etc. And so many have absolutely no shame in doing so. Quite a few of my co-workers who along with me were part of a mass layoff a couple of years ago refused to look for a job while they received unemployment. They said why should they, when they’re getting that money? I couldn’t believe their lack of shame in doing that.

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Rowan September 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

The thing about people like Buddy is that, whenever they DO have money, they don’t think “oh, I can pay folk back, or take them out for a nice meal to say thanks for helping me out” or even “maybe I should put some aside in case the worst happens”. They think “cool, I’m a bit flush, I can buy myself stuff” until the money is gone and suddenly they can’t afford rent or groceries, then they’re doing sad eyes at their friends again. Continuing to lend them money just enables their idea their irresponsible behaviour.

They can also be remarkably selective when you suggest a way to sort themselves out. Example: I used to buy the Big Issue regularly from a certain vendor, and I’d usually stop and chat, ask him how things were going. One day, he was complaining about how hard it was to get work when you’re homeless. I offered to ask at my work if they needed anyone. “Where is it?” he asked. I told him I was a kitchen porter in the student union canteen. “Oh no,” he said, “I wouldn’t want do do work like THAT.” I never bought from him again.

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Hellbound Alleee September 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Deserving or not, I believe it is our duty to feed the hungry–especially their children. I think I read that somewhere, in some book. I think it was a very old book.;)

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Magicdomino September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I have a few relatives who are deservably poor. If they had put as much effort into working, as they did into mooching, they would be better off now. There’s always an excuse — “You need to know too much to pass the GED test.” “I don’t have a car, so I can’t get to a job.” “It doesn’t pay enough to be worth my time.” In at least one case, there wasn’t any mental or physical illness involved; she consciously planned her mooching. Now she really is ill, but she has burned her family, and is no longer pretty enough to get men to pay her bills.

It does take time sometimes to figure out if the person is unwell or coniving. I know my relative conned people because she told me how she did it. Her dates probably just thought she was unlucky.

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Lilya September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm

@missminute and Margo: “Buddy” may or may not have other problems, but he still deliberatedly tracked down people he hadn’t spoken to in years *solely* to ask them for money. Pretty mooch-y if you ask me.

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Goldie September 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I agree with Gramma Dishes — I had the same thought when I read the original post — I’d have asked for Buddy’s college account info so I could make the payment directly to them. And then, odds are, I’d never hear from Buddy again.

That said, the term “deservedly poor” irks me in a lot of ways.

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Drawberry September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

The biggest issue to me is that people who are abusing the system are making it difficult for those who genuinely need government assistance. When someone is misusing government assistance, those who really need help are going to find it more and more difficult to get it.

A good friend of mine is an accomplished graphic designer who is very talented and hard-working, for two solid years he was unemployed and constantly in search of work. He was forced to stay at home, now being 30 years old, and was only able to finally get work nearing the end of the second year he was on unemployment. That job fell through within a month due to no fault of his own, and he was lucky enough to know someone who could get him in quickly at an open position elsewhere.

He’s a good, hardworking, and talented young man and needed every penny he got from unemployment. It may not have been the proudest moment of his life, but he took it in stride and saved up as much as he could so that shortly after getting his new job he and his girlfriend (another wonderful person I am lucky to know) where able to rent a home and now live comfortably on both of their jobs with neither requiring unemployment.

Someone who is abusing the system in place to assist people like my friend here are ruining it and making it so much more difficult for those who really need help. It’s not only selfish gimmie-pigging but it’s changing the way our society looks at those on disability and government assistance.

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Calliope September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm

While I understand that there are people who we might be tempted to label “deservedly poor,” I’m hesitant to make pronouncements on what anybody does or does not deserve. It’s similar to how I wouldn’t label someone “deservedly cancer-stricken” because unhealthy choices they made may have caused their illness. That person is in a bad situation, and scolding or judgmental comments from me don’t help anybody.

Of course there are poor people with no drive, ambition, or work ethic. There are rich people like that, too. It puzzles me that the outrage people feel over the lazy or entitled poor often vastly outweighs the outrage they feel over the lazy or entitled rich. I come away feeling like the thing that infuriates people isn’t laziness or entitlement, but poorness. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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Kendo_Bunny September 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm

It may be our duty to feed the hungry, but it is not our duty to make sure they have up-to-date iPods and designer purses.

There are two classes of non-disabled people living primarily on charity. Those who hit a rough patch and are trying desperately to get themselves back up and out, and are using that charity as a helping hand, and those who view that charity as their due. The second type are never going to do anything difficult besides try to figure out new ways to game the system and everyone around them. If they’re addicted to something, they do it because it’s fun, and they can be given multiple opportunities to get clean and will flatly refuse to take them.

I’m currently living on my parent’s charity. I’m part of that great mass of underemployed college grads (53% of under-25’s are unemployed or underemployed) and last year my medical expenses exceeded my total income. My parents are paying the lion’s share of my medical bills and are letting me live on relaxed rent in one of their houses while I desperately try to find work. I may have found something, so here’s hoping and praying that soon I can get off charity and start paying back some of that money.

My cousin’s ex-fiance is one of the deservedly poor. She is a drug addict. She spun my cousin a story about wanting to get clean, so my parents allowed them to rent a room in the house I’m living in. So she had a nice house in a nice neighborhood. She had court-mandated rehab, that my cousin drove her to. She had government funded mental health care that my cousin drove her to. She had NA meetings that my cousin drove her to, and when he couldn’t, I would. Eventually, my cousin gave her access to a car so she could try to find a job. Instead, she went to go get more drugs. She refused to go to her therapy or her rehab. She stole from him and from me. She invited drug dealers into the house. Now she’s shocked that he’s leaving, and is crying that it’s just not fair. It was just not fair that I told her to leave the house when I found drug paraphernalia. It’s just not fair that he’s not going to continue paying for her drug habit while he works 60+ hour weeks and she cheats on him with drug dealers for more drugs. It’s just not fair that we didn’t give her a chance, because apparently letting someone live rent-free for 8 months, while driving them to and from free drug rehabilitation services is not giving them a chance.

There are some people who are going to choose to waste their lives. They are going to choose to be drains on everyone around them, no matter how many chances they get to improve their situation. It’s a shame, but it’s there. There’s just the matter of not letting them die, but not funding their chosen paths of destruction.

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Angela September 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm

The deeply annoying thing about people like Buddy, to me, is that they make people less willing to help others who truly need it.

There is a diagnosis although not psychiatry-approved: “Entitled”

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Rug Pilot September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I have a friend who is a semi retired jazz musician with a track record in big bands that would make anyone proud. He is now still looking for work with a small band of very good musicians wh are retired engineers but of pro player quality. They play for tips since he has not been able to find a seriously paying gig. I take him out for dinner whenever I can. I like eating with company and the conversation is always interesting. If it wasn’t for one of his friends taking him in he would be living in his car. I don’t think I’m being taken advantage of. He has done some toher work for me that I have paid for. He is reliable and works hard.

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Mr. Gizmo September 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm

@ Hellbound Alleee – With all due respect, there is also a story in that “old book” about the servant and the wasted talents.

@ all commenters: I work with people with every variety of disability imaginable – physical, sensory, neurological, psychiatric – and many who have situations where you wonder if they’re even going to be able to dig themselves out. Not surprisingly, the individuals I see who have achieved the greatest successes are the ones who work hard, accept the situation they are in, and do something about it without feeling friends and strangers alike owe them something. They learn what assistance is available to them and use it (not in a “gimme” way). I bristle at the thinking that most people who are moochers may be mentally ill and don’t know they’re doing it. I tend to agree more with the philosophy of “GroceryGirl” above.

Buddy’s way of living sounded like it was a habit that went on for years, and not a temporary situation. Getting welfare so you can live on a ranch in the mountains? Come on! There is also no mention in his “gimme letter” that he intended to pay anyone back once he graduated and was working, but rather, just letting them be satisfied that they helped him.

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RedDevil September 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

GroceryGirl — I agree wholeheartedly, and I’m glad someone said it.

Hellbound Alleee – I disagree; I don’t think it’s our duty to help anyone who wont help themselves. The children are a different matter and should be considered case by case. In many cases, I think we leave children in neglectful situations far too long in the hopes that the parents will pull it together. In the meantime, these kids are missing out on life, and create a cycle of the next generation of moochers.

Those who are in poverty and work to get themselves out, will eventually do so. They may not become rich, but they’ll get off welfare and stand on their own two feet.
Those who are in poverty and are moochers will make excuses and complain that life is so hard for them, and that they have bad luck, etc etc, essentially blaming anything but themselves for their situation. I think “deservedly-poor” is a perfect description. I think they also deservedly need a kick in the pants and rude awakening.

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White Lotus September 17, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I am having a problem with the word “welfare.” In the USA, it is virtually impossible for a non-disabled adult to get any kind of “welfare” unless he or she is caring for young children. Even then, as I understand it, the program is very limited in terms of time, and is geared towards preparing people to work, and getting them working, before their benefit term runs out. I think there is a five year lifetime maximum.
A disabled adult with a significant employment history has paid into a disability insurance program called Social Security Disability, based on past earnings, plus Medicare. A disabled adult without a sufficient employment history, if s/he is very, very poor, as in minimal assets, may qualify for something called Supplemental Security Income, a very small benefit, but it does also come with medical benefits. It is not easy to qualify for either of these programs. Appeals are routine. Their doctors examine the applicants. Not as simple as many people think.
Since OP’s use of language indicates they are in the USA, I think Buddy pretty much HAS TO be on some kind of disability, which means, yes, he is disabled. Many disabled people try very hard to get off disability of either kind by learning new skills and so on. Those whose disabilities are physical often succeed. Many others try, but their disabilities prevent them from succeeding — often those disabilities are mental illness related.
It isn’t rude to say no to Buddy, not at all. And maybe he is a mooch — OP obviously does not like him –and that may be part of his disability (or not.) But I suggest that compassion is also a big part of etiquette, and doing so nicely (and eliminating contact) is what is in order here.

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Cat Whisperer September 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm

People behave the way they behave because it gets them what they want. This is true both of people who are workaholics who have no family life because they’re so dedicated to their jobs, and to moochers who manage to manipulate other people to support them and never can hold a job to even support themselves for long.

Missminute’s comment re: “…a great many people considered by the average Joe to be“too lazy to work” in fact suffer from mental illness, learning disabilities and personality disorders, sometimes had to spot from where we stand in a more comfortable position…”

There is some truth to this. This is an area I have some experience with, since my dad was bipolar, one of my brothers was severely dyslexic, and I have family members on my father’s side who have personality disorders.

…HOWEVER: it is also my experience that with the exception of people with mental illness that is so severe as to be intransigent to virtually any form of treatment (fortunately very rare), people who are mentally ill, who have learning disorders, and who have personality disorders, can AND DO manage to earn a living on their own without soliciting handouts. It is a disservice to many people with mental illness and learning disabilities to make the assumption that they have to rely on others for a living, or that they are doomed or destined to a life of poverty.

Most mental illnesses can be mitigated or controlled to some extent by treatment of some kind. Most learning disabilities can be overcome or worked around. Not always to the extent that the illness or learning disability doesn’t work a hardship on the people who have them, and they don’t by any means have an easy life. I’ve seen that up front and personal.

But having a mental illness or a learning disability does not automatically destine a person to a life of mooching and using their affliction as a reason to avoid personal responsibility. It’s a matter of the person with the affliction making a decision about how they want to deal with their problem. It’s a mistake to assume that mental illness or learning disability is automatically accompanied by an inability, or lack of desire, to recognize the need for treatment and to find and get into treatment.

Yes, many if not most of the “street people” who live in apparent poverty and homelessness have mental illnesses and are much to be pitied. The more so because in many cases they could and would seek out or accept treatment to mitigate their conditions if treatment was made available to them that was affordable and that wasn’t actually punitive in nature, or offered to them by people who have a visible disdain for them and who treat them with contempt and disgust. While the issue of mental illness and poverty is too complicated to be dealt with here, suffice it to say that there are many outreach programs for the homeless mentally ill that have shown that when access to compassionate and appropriate treatment is made available, many apparently “hopelessly” mentally ill homeless people can be transitioned to some form of self-supporting lifestyle.

The choice to “mooch” and to use one’s personal afflictions as a tool to shake family, friends and co-workers down for handouts is exactly that: a choice. And many mentally ill people, even severely mentally ill people like my father was, choose to NOT mooch or live off their families and friends and go through literal hell on earth to manage to support themselves (FWIW, in many cases the decision to become homeless is a way of maintaining some degree of self-esteem by avoiding at all costs mooching off family and friends).

I think that’s a point that needs to be made. My dad supported a wife and four kids even with bipolar mood disorder, before treatment with lithium and many of the drugs that are used now for treatment were available. He would never, not ever, have considered hitting up even close family members, never mind mere acquaintances, for support. Mooching was just not in his DNA, even when accepting assistance from family members would have made life much easier for him.

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Belly September 18, 2012 at 12:20 am

I agree with @DrewBerry and @GroceryGirl; sometimes people are just jerks out for everything they can get, and spoil it for others in the process. There are a lot of very caring and empathetic people on this site who almost fall over themselves to forgive or diagnose others, but you know what? You don’t have to be mentally ill or on the spectrum to take advantage of others/work the system/behave rudely.

I’m glad I live in Australia, the welfare system here is great. I’ve needed it; it was a hand up, not a hand out. Unfortunately there are those who take advantage and regard it as an entitlement as opposed to assistance. It gives me the irrits!

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Sugaryfun September 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

I agree with some previous commenters that often people are poor/jobless due to mental illness or addiction, and it’s sort of hard to tell from just the post if Buddy might be one of those people. There are genuine moochers out there though and I know a couple. One of them really seems not to get that his asking for money is rude or innappropriate. His parents have indulged him, repeatedly bailing him out of finanical troubles caused by him doing stuff like spending all his rent money on beer or a holiday in a five star hotel. Other family members do say no to him but maybe don’t spell out why exactly he shouldn’t be asking because they think he should know already but he doesn’t. Some people don’t learn if nobody tells them what exactly they’ve done wrong.

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Lex September 18, 2012 at 3:05 am

Buddy sounds like certain relatives of mine who have been made bankrupt 3 times through their own inability to live a lifestyle within their means. When my grandmothers Dementia advanced to the point where she was unable to care for herself, these vile moochers pursuaded her to sell her house and give them some of the money to buy a house large enough. Funny how it had stables and horses too…

Then her dementia progressed to the point that she was moved into a home and suddenly they were made bankrupt and my lying thieving bastard uncle (husband of my mothers younger sister) had the gall to play the ‘strain of caring for an elderly, infirm mother-in-law’ card in court!

Fast-forward to my grandmothers death, whereupon my mother (as joint executor of the estate with her older brother) recieved a letter from the council stating that my grandmothers estate owed them £10,000 for unpaid care fees!!! Some investigation later, we discover these vile moochers have stolen every penny of my grans money, left her bank account in horrific debt and failed to pay for her care. What makes matters worse is that they stole her money to pay for HORSES and a lifestyle beyond their means!

I hope they rot in hell. We’ve severed all contact with them but moochers should not be tolerated. Vile cretinous blights on society, it makes you wish the ‘workhouse’ was still an institution where people that can’t pay their debts are forced to work for their keep!

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Fizzychip September 18, 2012 at 4:08 am

I am ashamed to admit that my sister is of the “Buddy” ilk. Now approaching her 50’s, she has NEVER held a job, instead has spent her adult years playing the welfare system & mooching off generous souls who think they’re helping her. She has lost very good friends because she has not repaid “borrowed” funds and she has stolen money right out of my purse.

Not prepared to work herself, all the same she still resents when other’s do. I have been fortunate in that I have been out of work very little in my life & I was recently able to put a deposit down for a very modest home. In my 40’s, it’s my first home and I am so proud. My sister’s reaction was to lament her own “bad luck” in not being able to achieve this for herself & suggested to me that when our mother passes, that she should now inherit the family home exclusively because “you have a house now and wont need it”. She then asked to “borrow” money.

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jen a. September 18, 2012 at 5:57 am

@Calliope

So well put! I was struggling to articulate how I felt about some of the attitudes around the poor, and you explained it so well.

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Margo September 18, 2012 at 8:52 am

@Lilya – as I said in my comment, Buddy may well be a moocher and OP has every right to ignore his request. My concern was more with the very harsh comments about ‘undeserving poor’ and ‘gimmee pigs’. Calliope has expressed very clearly one of the reasons why (and I agree with her comment)

I also accepted that there are some poepl who are gredy, who are moochers, who don’t “deserve” help. BUT in many cas people who, at first glance, behave like that often have lots of underlying reasons. Saying someone is ‘undeserving’ is a little like saying someone who suffers from severe depression is ‘lazy’ because they don’t just get up start cheering themself up.

It troubles me that the default position so often seems to be to assume that someone who is claiming social secuity or who is not workig or hwo asks for help is greedy or mooching or undeserving.

One of the things which brought home to bme that fact that sometimes simply surviving, without seeking to ‘better yourslef’ can take all and more of a person’s resources and enrgy was when I worked, in my professional capacity, with a young woman who, on the face if it, was a classic deadbit, social secutiy scrounging wefae mum. She had never had a job, had had (relatively minor) run ins with the police, she had an alcohol problem and her older child had ben removed by social services. I met her when she was expecting her second child.
I leanred tha she had spent her own childhood in an out of care. She had never had, or seen any kind of stable family life, ever learned how a functional family operates, never had any experience of a healthy relationship. he had grown up in an atmsphere os domestic abuse, poverty, and ucertainty and had effectively been thrown out on her own at 16. When she was expecting the new baby, her lawyers , who had known her professionally for some time, had a whip round and bought her a card, and a small gift for the baby. She told me about this, in tears of gratitude. Because that was the *only* gift, the only recognition or celebration from anyone for the birth of her child. I cannot imagine being so utterly alone and isolated.
She made massive efforts to get to a point where she could keep her baby. But she was learning everything from sratch. She has no clue about budgeting, about how to feed herself or her child on a budget, about how loand and benefits worked and would would or would not help her. She didn’t have any experience of how healthy, normal, polite interactions work because she’d never had that modelled for her. She’d spent her entire life wither in very dysfucntional familys or in institutions.
If you saw just a snapshot of her life – beuase she was asking for cash to cover her electricty but had bought toys or clothes earlier in the week, for instance, you’d probably write her off as undeserving. If you look below the surface, you’d see that althoughshe wasn’t mentally ill, she was far from undeserving or from being blameworthy for where she was or what her life was like.
During the time I knew her, she never got to the stage where she could stop claiming social security. She did make huge strides, however, and woked harder than I have ever seen anyone work. The problem was that she started so far behind that it took those huge efforts, and incredible hard work, just to get up to ‘undeserving poor’. I’ve often wondered what she might hve achieved had she started from a ‘normal’ place, with a stale background, and without the enourmoud hurdles which she faced.

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Miss Alex September 18, 2012 at 11:02 am

@Cat Whisperer- Thank you very much for putting into words what was frustrating me about this whole conversation.

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The Elf September 18, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Calli Arcale, you nailed it. Just nailed it. The moochers in my life have that same psychological profile – stuck in a rut, holding on to what works now, putting off what they don’t want to do, and finding excuses not to feel guilty about it. We all fall for a bit of that now and again – who hasn’t put off something to tomorrow to have fun today? The problem becomes when tomorrow is always tomorrow.

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The Elf September 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Calliope, I’m not nuts about the lazy and entitled rich either. The difference is that my tax money doesn’t go to support them. They can be lazily rich all on their own.

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Cat Whisperer September 18, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Miss Alex, I think the discussion got sidetracked by the term “deserving poor.” This being a website devoted to etiquette, and not the causes or politics of poverty, I think the issue in the OP’s story is that “Buddy” was using his down-and-outness as a way to try to shake people down for money, and there was doubtfulness that any money “Buddy” got would be used in the way he represented it would be: i.e., to pay for college.

The issue for most people isn’t whether there are some people who they would be willing to help, but where do you draw the line in deciding who to help. And that’s where the concept of “deservingness” slips in and things start getting difficult, and where the discussion strays from the issues of etiquette and starts getting into issues that are more philosophical and political and personal.

If you accept that a function of etiquette is to allow people to navigate difficult situations while maintaining dignity and decorum, then I think that it becomes clear that it is never acceptable to give someone a handout just to stop them from being importunate– i.e., stuffing money in a panhandler’s cup just to shut him up and make him leave us alone; we lose our dignity in doing that, and by reducing the panhandler to just a whining nuisance to be shut up, we deny him his dignity. And similarly, if we suspect that the person requesting assistance is being dishonest about what they are asking for, it’s not acceptable to give the assistance, because we’re basically giving the assistance just to shut the person up and make them go away, not because we’re actually trying to be helpful. And that denies us and the person requesting the assistance their dignity. Hence, etiquette-wise, in this situation where “Buddy” has a record of not putting assistance he’s received to the use he says he will, and where “Buddy” also has a record of never reaching an end to the need for assistance, it’s pretty clear that neither the OP nor “Buddy” will maintain dignity or decorum if OP gives “Buddy” money. OP clearly doesn’t believe “Buddy” will put the money to good use. Under those circumstances, etiquette clearly requires a polite refusal to “Buddy’s” request for assistance.

If we recognize genuine need in a request for assistance, etiquette still helps us work out how to go about helping; if we want to help, we should do so with grace and dignity, while allowing the person we’re assisting to maintain their dignity. And this means treating them as capable of accepting assistance responsibly: which means putting it to the use for which it’s intended, and either paying it back or “paying it forward” when they’re able to.

As a giver of assistance, we maintain our dignity and grace by not “lording it over” the person we’re assisting, by not patronizing them or demeaning them for being in need of assistance. And I think this means that if we can’t provide the assistance with an attitude of grace and dignity, we have an obligation to NOT offer help. JMO, but I think that it’s a better thing, both ethically and etiquette-wise, to not offer someone assistance than to offer assistance resentfully or in a way that demeans the person we’re assisting.

At least, that’s how I see the etiquette of the situation; the realities of dealing with poverty and how to help people who need help are much more complicated.

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Enna September 19, 2012 at 5:46 am

I think that admin does make a good distinction and also what Cat Whisperer has said.

If I was in Buddy’s situation I would write to people I knew asking if they had any work around the house that needed to be done, babysitting, cleaning, cooking, gardening etc etc to fund my own way though university/colleague. Also if I was working and therefore earning the money I can spend it on what I want, within reason.

What I don’t like is the way Buddy has given his own bank account details to pay money into – if he had spoken to his university about donors sending donations to the university that would be, in my view more believable that he was taking his studying and future more seriously.

I would love to know why OP’s wife kicked him out.

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kj September 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

I think we all know someone that falls into the deserving category. A good example is that a friend’s stepchild would borrow money on Wednesday to get through to Friday (payday). Pay it back on Friday only to borrow again the next week. Regularly. Every week. When my friend said no more loans, but I’ll PAY you (as in you don’t have to pay me back) to do some yardwork instead, the stepchild decided they didn’t need the money that bad. That is deservedly poor.

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