The following is an account of a recent panhandler interaction Fortress Staff Instructors Matt & Tricia Ellison recently experienced.

“Last month, we, along with two other couples, attended a lecture in the heart of Chicago approximately 3 blocks from City Hall.

Parking was half a block away and required us to traverse sidewalks adorned with the usual gaggle of bums, drug addicts, and criminals, ever present in Marxist run blue state cities. The common approach method is the peddling of Chicago’s homeless newspaper, StreetWise.

Each of us had OC spray at the ready, however, our quick trip to the venue was relatively uneventful as the interactions between ourselves and the transients amounted to immediate disengagement through our continued forward movement and their approach being cut off with our standard, “I’m sorry, sir, I can’t help you” tape loop. It also worked to our advantage that we were walking in daylight and the sidewalks were packed with other pedestrians, making for a target rich environment of VBC’s [Victims By Choice] to prey on.

At 10pm we left the venue – that’s when things became interesting.

Pedestrian sidewalk traffic had decreased dramatically. Panhandlers had shed their copies of Streetwise and peddler’s badges, replacing them aggressive begging.

Lecture attendees were standing outside the venue in small groups chatting as predators walked up and forced themselves into their circle attempting to engage. Imagine someone who hasn’t bathed or changed clothes in months scraping against yourself and your wife while wedging themselves in between the two of you. It was an amazing sight to watch – what people were willing to endure at the risk of being perceived as rude was astonishing!

We quickly left the area and made our way to our vehicles where one potential criminal approached members of our group in the kiosk pay area of the parking garage. He refused to take no for an answer – he simply wouldn’t go away. Eventually, after 4 attempts at disengagement, one of the other two males in our group had to escalate his volume level and adjust his language. That worked long enough for our group to enter the elevator. The aggressor simply moved on then to another couple in the pay area.

The parking garage kiosk is an incredibly dangerous place to find yourself. It’s a small room with one door in, an elevator, and a machine that looks like an ATM. You have to feed a lot ticket into it and then pay with a card. The problem in this case was we were waiting on line for our turn at the machine while in a confined space. We were a captive audience to the criminals!

An interesting observation is that none of the panhandlers approached the female of any couple. They all engaged the male. The psychology is obvious – if they’d engaged the female, the male would then become protective, which increases the odds of a physical confrontation. By working the male, they put him at risk of looking uncaring, rude, or like a cheapskate to his spouse/date.

As the more aggressive acts occurred during this encounter, I’m happy to report none of it was directed at myself or Tricia. We assume it was simply because of the way we carried ourselves, as well as the look on our faces and in our eyes.

Of course, this is what one risks going to such places.”



The goal of all such miscreants is to con their victim into stopping and engage in conversation, thus, granting opportunity for monetary gain through “donation” or outright theft. The theft being wallet/purse snatching or pick pocketing, and the donation amounting to a passive mugging. Passive, because we’re being robbed, we just pretend we’re not.

Those who make a life living on the street are almost always alcohol and/or chemical depended, and almost always in need of psychiatric treatment. Yes, one can find cases of those who are simply “down on their luck”, but they are few and far between.

We need to realize handing over spare change and dollar bills only enables them. The money will not be used to rent a room, clean themselves up, buy new clothes, and go job hunting.  It will be used to buy drugs and alcohol.

The dollar given to them will not address their problems, but, it does make the donor feel good about themselves. They can pat themselves on the back when they walk away while telling themselves that they are a good person for “helping” rather than dismissing a bum.  They hand cash over as if doing the Lord’s work. Of course, those same saints are not so quick to invite the beggars home to live in their guest rooms.

It’s as if, at least subconsciously, they recognize the futility of their own actions and the actual threat the homeless represent. And make no mistake, all transients are capable of serious violence!

Our best defense is to not engage, avoiding all interaction. However, that’s always easier said than done, especially in urban areas.

Realistically, we will all come in contact with pan handlers no matter what evasive actions we take. Therefore, we need some basic skills at the ready in order to navigate them.

First, movement! We don’t stop.

Second, we verbally disengage. The tape loop we recommend be memorized and at the ready is: “I’m sorry, sir. I can’t help you.” It’s polite, dismissive, and using those words no witness can accuse us of starting a fight.

We use that phrase no matter what is being said, and we don’t wait for the person to finish talking.

Third, we carry ourselves with confidence and purpose. We don’t look “lost”, we don’t wander around oblivious. VCA’s [Violent Criminal Actors] observing us see people who are on a mission, serious, aware, and not worth their effort.

Applying such techniques offers no guaranty we won’t be accosted. Therefore, we must always have a plan OC (pepper spray), plan R (run), and a plan G (gun).

Those who practice such daily avoid making the Victim By Choice list!

“A beggars hand is a bottomless basket.” – Dutch Proverb