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Old 13.03.2011, 11:11
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"Vagrancy" in zurich?

I recently started going to zurich on a regular basis again, after about 7+ years. I usually go within ~3 tramstops of Zurich HB, in all directions, but not towards Langstrasse way.

While I am at the train station/tram stops, I have been approached by strangers, at least once a week, asking to bum cigarettes, begging for money to buy food/shelter/lodging, etc. These people spoke really good swiss german or high german (really good accents) and were mostly caucasian.

In bern, it was a different story with people sitting on the side walks with with a bowl in front of them. But what I see in Zurich is so much more open/blatant/direct. They were very polite about it. I had people asking for money, anywhere from 50 rp. to CHF5+.

I am wondering if I just look like a sucker to them. I don't mind helping, but is this now a growing trend in Zurich? Anyone else notice this in Zurich? In other cities?

Regards,
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Old 13.03.2011, 11:25
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Re: "vagrancey" in zurich?

No, there really are more poor people begging in the streets.
But not just here, all over.
One of the kindest expressions of solidarity I saw, was in Paris in a poorer arrondissement.
It was early morning and I was having a cup of coffee in a café. A homeless man dressed in tatters, looking so weary, came in, and quietly sat down.
The waitress looked him over and disappeared. She came back with a full breakfast for him and a smile.
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Old 13.03.2011, 11:43
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

Some trivia on the subject of vagrancy:

In 1902, what was Mussolini arrested for in Lausanne, Switzerland?

Vagrancy. Mussolini's preference for seclusion and refusal to perform manual labor forced him to turn to begging to survive while living in Lausanne. He was eventually arrested for vagrancy and put in jail.

Source

An interesting Swissinfo article


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In 1926, the Swiss government approved a project set up by the children’s charity Pro Juventute intended to eliminate vagrancy. Entitled Kinder der Landstrasse (“Children of the Road”)
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Old 13.03.2011, 12:04
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

Most of those people asking for money do not need it. I once gave 20 Raps and followed the guy. He finally went into a Denner to buy Cigarets and alcool. Swiss social system is good enough that nobody needs begging, but there are no policies or laws to prohibit it. That is why alcoholics still do it to be able to buy the stuff.
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Old 13.03.2011, 12:12
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

I noticed a guy going through a bin looking for scraps near a takeaway once. I gave him 10 Francs and he kissed it and said thank you (Swiss German). He proceeded to join the queue at the takeaway and buy a sandwich. From the looks of him I don't doubt he was addicted to alcohol and it did think twice before giving him the money. At the end of the day though, i thought, it's your decision, if you need alcohol to numb the pain of your existence, go ahead I thought, you're an adult and who am I to judge when I enjoy the odd tipple myself.

Yes I have noticed this trend and at one time there appeared to be some kind of organised syndicate around the HB but they appear to have since moved on. I just go on my gut feeling on whether or not I give anything. The elderly in this situation tend to get my sympathy and I occasionally hand over something to them. Does not however solve whatever the underlying problem is.
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Old 13.03.2011, 12:31
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

I've also been asked for change, especially at the busiest tram stops. I've noticed there's sort of a hippie hangout at the Bahnhofquai tramstop and group of alcoholic regulars at the Stauffacher tram stop.

I've always hoped that there are services for people who are really in trouble, but I've never really learned if this is the case. Does anyone here know?
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Old 13.03.2011, 13:03
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

In Berlin vagrants asked 'hast du eine Mark" - and I obliged most to the time. But I did see red once when a young guy asked 'hast du Meine Mark?' - I told him it was mine and he wasn't having it. Luckily it was quite crowded- and I got away. Must say I avoided the Platz for some time.
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Old 13.03.2011, 13:04
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

I once walked from Trafalger Square to Tottenham Court Road Tube counting 48 different people who asked me for money... lets hope it won't get that bad here but the way I see it is simple, don't gamble on giving cash to any 'vagrant' in the street because (via a charity) there may be someone/a family who may need your help more.
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Old 13.03.2011, 17:12
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

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In Berlin vagrants asked 'hast du eine Mark" - and I obliged most to the time. But I did see red once when a young guy asked 'hast du Meine Mark?' - I told him it was mine and he wasn't having it. Luckily it was quite crowded- and I got away. Must say I avoided the Platz for some time.
Odile, it could be he actually asked, "Hast du mir eine Mark," but somewhat slurred the syllables. That sentence makes sense, whereas, "Hast du meine Mark" doesn't. So maybe you did him an injustice. Never mind, I'm sure he didn't take it personally.
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Old 13.03.2011, 17:35
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

Yes, there is poverty in Switzerland; also in Zurich. Usually it is hidden due to the fact that in Switzerland it is considered shameful to be poor.

Switzerland has a very good unemployment fund, but once you had the maximum payout and have still not found employment you are left with nothing (literally) or a trip to the social services and apparently it is quite difficult as they decide on a case by case basis how much is needed. If you then make it back into employment, the social payments that had been made on your behalf are apparently supposed to be reimbursed to the state at some point.

There are many institutions (usually Christian) that help people in poverty-stricken or substance-abuse situations - think of the Heilsarmee (Salvation army), Hilfswerke Pfarrer Sieber, and other private or religious organisations that work on the quiet helping those no-one else will help any longer.

In my experience, these are not those that beg for CHF 2.- (usual amount) and usually operating in groups (around Stadelhofen). Those just described are usually younger, often from normal or even wealthy homes, but prefer to stay with their "friends" to consume drugs. They will stay on the streets for days on end and then occasionally go home (usually their parents) for a wash or whatever and then take off again.

Either way, both groups need help (for different problems) and there are several charities that do work here (and are always looking for volunteers).
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Old 13.03.2011, 18:29
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

Together with the Scandinavian countries I expect that Switzerland has one of the most extensive social security nets in the world. In Zurich there is a whole department dedicated to this:
http://www.stadt-zuerich.ch/sd/de/index.html

Those that are "begging" for money, are either "beggar-tourists" who are trying to rip you off or people financing their "alternate" lifestyle without having to deal with the state. Or you have the drug or alcohol abusers who are trying to score some money for drugs and alcohol (despite the government sponsored (and Krankenkasse financed) programs to wean them of drugs and alcohol).

I may be petty but I do not believe in supporting, e.g. German punks who have decided on financing their trip to Zurich by begging (even with the Euro where it is).
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Old 13.03.2011, 18:42
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

It all looks very impressive on the web site, yet still many fall between the cracks, so that there is enough work for other organisations as well.

And CHF 5.- for someone who is homeless and not working still has to be somehow found so that they can spend the night in one of the shelters offered by social services.

Last edited by jrspet; 14.03.2011 at 07:10. Reason: As requested.
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Old 13.03.2011, 18:52
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

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If you then make it back into employment, the social payments that had been made on your behalf are apparently supposed to be reimbursed to the state at some point.
Or if you inherit something.

Tom
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Old 13.03.2011, 20:25
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Re: "vagrancey" in zurich?

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No, there really are more poor people begging in the streets.
But not just here, all over.
One of the kindest expressions of solidarity I saw, was in Paris in a poorer arrondissement.
It was early morning and I was having a cup of coffee in a café. A homeless man dressed in tatters, looking so weary, came in, and quietly sat down.
The waitress looked him over and disappeared. She came back with a full breakfast for him and a smile.
@Sky - Thank you for sharing this wonderful example and reminder of human kindness in action at it's best. The waitress reached out to help a stranger in need with no questions asked and no judgements on her part. Simply beautiful...
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Old 13.03.2011, 21:15
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

I must admit that I have a lower tolerance of people asking for money here in Switzerland than I did in the UK. Mainly because I know, as someone who is on social aid, that there is no need for anyone to beg here. If I can have financial support, being a foreigner, then I am sure the Swiss nationals can!

I did have something quite bizarre happen to me a month or so ago. I was standing in Lausanne station and I was approached by a smartly dressed man. He explained that he had just lost his job and his apartment, and that he needed some money so that he could pay for accommodation for the night for him and his family, and added that he was going to see social services the next day. I replied that I was really sorry, but that I was on social aid myself and I couldn't afford to give him the amount he was asking (I think he asked me for something like 20 CHF). He backed off as if he'd been shot. I watched him for about 15 minutes and he didn't approach anyone else. Most odd.

What I really dislike are the groups of people who accost you on a train, shove a clipboard in your face whilst indicating that they are deaf-mute. I have several times been approached by 3 or 4 people in the course of the journey who are 'working' the train. Quite apart from the fact that, as I've said above, I'm certain that they have no need to beg, it's very frustrating because you can't even be polite about your refusal! Interestingly, at the end of last year some of these people were exposed as frauds by a traveller who really was deaf - she tried to communicate with them in sign language and they did not understand. (http://www.20min.ch/ro/news/romandie/story/23943791)
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Old 14.03.2011, 09:05
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Re: "Vagrancy" in zurich?

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And CHF 5.- for someone who is homeless and not working still has to be somehow found so that they can spend the night in one of the shelters offered by social services.
Yes, but if he applies to the social services in his hometown, then they will pay his living costs. Of course if he/she prefers to hang out in the big city for some reason...
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