Those traffic lights beggars


Have you ever stopped at a traffic light in the city and out of nowhere an outstretched hand or a dirty bowl is pushed through the window of your vehicle?

And there you are pretending to look in the other direction, trying to ignore it, at the same time keeping an eye on the lights to see when the green comes on.

Clyde Richmond at Vlissengen Road and Lamaha Street yesterday.
The hand and the bowl are attached to indigent persons who are engaged in a comparatively new phenomenon— begging at traffic lights.

They are there every day, these beggars; risking life and limb as they work the traffic lanes at the lights, dodging vehicles as they pull up and on the alert for when the light goes green and the vehicles rush off to get across the intersections.

Some of them are vagrants, some mentally challenged, some very much in need, and there might ne one or who just would prefer not to work.

One man who pretends he is physically challenged, leaning on a crutch, wipes the windscreens of vehicles and demands a fee for the job at the Sheriff and David Street traffic lights, just near the Guyana Oil Company (GUYOIL) gas station.

His job begins early and he goes on into the late night, and when this writer tried to speak to him, he brushed her off, saying he was busy trying to make a dollar.

A drug addict, one of those who threatened Clyde Richmond several times as they share the Vlissengen Road traffic lights.
Meanwhile, at a Lamaha Street traffic light, two women, one of them elderly, and three children, set themselves up every day and beg for money as cars stop.

This group started begging at the corner of Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic, and shifted their area of operation when the traffic lights were introduced.

The woman is abusive whenever she receives a $20 note, and demands more.

In a new development, during a routine campaign, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security on Friday last took her three children in custody of the Child Care and Protective Agency.

And then there is Clyde Richmond, 46, of Lamaha Street, Georgetown, who took up begging at the lights at Vlissengen Road and Lamaha Street.

He was injured in an accident eight years ago, when he lost his right hand, and a smashed right leg has made this limb shorter than the other one.

Richmond told this newspaper he was self-employed before he was struck down by a mini bus, and after the accident no one wanted to employ him.

The man explained that he has a genuine physical defect after the accident and is aided by a crutch, and is well-known to passersby who assist him because of his attitude.

“Manners makes a good man and I am a very contented man who is very pleasant to everyone I meet, and they in turn help me,” he said.

He is helped on a regular basis by bus conductros and commuters and other sympathetic persons.

Mr. Richmond said he hails from a small village on the Demerara River, and lives alone in a small room he rents and tries to make ends meet.

Then there is the group at the Camp and North Road lights, armed with bowls and looking at times a bit worse off because of alcohol.

They are abusive and ill-mannered and demand money from the owners and occupants of vehicles that pass by.

When this newspaper tried to photograph them, they ran off pelting whatever they found on the roadway.

This begging at traffic lights phenomenon has come to the attention of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.

Permanent Secretary Mr. Trevor Thomas noted with concern the emerging trend, and remarked that presently there is no law against this practice which he termed a ‘nuisance’.

Of course it is also dangerous, as it threatens the safety of the beggar and drivers alike.

Mr. Thomas noted with concern the growing the number of persons involved in traffic lights begging, and he recognizes their reluctance to be institutionalized with the ministry.

“Their unwillingness to get registered with the National Commission on Disability is known. At the moment we have a register of 2,000 and assistance is meted out in many forms, including monetary and even medical,” he explained.

He pointed out that many of those that practice begging at traffic lights see the road as more lucrative.

Mr. Thomas urged such persons to get registered with the National Commission on Disability and their cases will be assessed and necessary assistance will be given.