Homeless taking advantage in place of worship

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One of the thousands of homeless people in Vilnius who found a loophole in the system. Photo: Annastashia Goolsby

Kneeling in front of the steps of the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of Lithuania, is a young homeless woman who seems to be minding her own business muttering a prayer to herself while looking into the sky; When in fact, it is part of her scheme looking for an oblivious tourist to spiel a sad story to and end it by asking for money. 

How do I know? I fell for it.

By Annastashia Goolsby

Vilnius, Lithuania: In an attempt to combat the estimated 10,000 homeless people in the capital of Lithuania, the Mayor of Vilnius, Arturas Zuokas, put a ban on begging and giving beggars money.

– When you give beggars money, you aren‘t providing them with a chance to recover. On the    contrary, you support their way of living and justify panhandling. A better way to help them is to give that money to a charity, says Arturas Zuokas, Mayor of Vilnius –

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Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn is a famous chapel attracting many beggars because it is a main tourist attraction and provides shelter from the infamous Lithuanian weather . Photo: Annastashia Goolsby

With the ban implemented in 2011, a fine of 1,000-2,000 Litas (290-580 Euros) will be given to anyone caught disobeying the prohibition.

I felt horrible walking by the same drab homeless people day after day and with the U.S. dollar to lita conversion in my mind, I felt obligated to at least give them my loose change; But I learned my lesson early on.

Lucky for them, there is a loophole in the system because the ban is not imposed near churches, cathedrals, monasteries and convents or during religious services and events; this explains why the same beggars can be found in front of the same church day after day.

Despite the shelters in Vilnius available to the homeless and the free food provided, they still continue to panhandle on the streets because they view it as a business where they can make their own money to spend.