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Homeless -- Pity or Looking to Help?

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posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 10:03 AM
I've always come from a small town, so most Social Issues are not something I come across on a daily basis. So homless people are not something I come across on a regular basis, but when I do its something I can not shake very easily. Going back about 6 months ago I was approached after a movie, about 1AM, by a stranger asking for change. He scared the hell out of my girlfriend and I, mostly because we did not see him coming. Before I knew it I told him no and kept walking, this drove me nuts for weeks. I was almost at the point of turning around and driving back to offer him the bit of change I did have in my pocket.

Well about three days ago I was stopped at a red light and a young man not much older than myself was holding a sign that read:

"Travelling through. I'm Cold, Broke & Hungry. Anything Helps! Thank You"

Being from a small town not everyone smiles at this sort of thing, so you see the gossiping. I quickly put my car into Park and offered the man everything I had in my pocket. He thanked me quietly and walked on, as he did I could see in my mirror that cars behind me were quickly reaching for change to give him as well.

This man was only my age and I could not shake the thought that this man did not know where he would sleep tonight, or wake up tomorrow. What a scary thought that is.

So to my point, is this a Pity for the homeless? Am I simply looking to Help? I can offer the guy some change, but what about the guy who could offer them a home or job. I doubt this feeling is pity because I don't exactly feel sorry for them, I Just wish I could do more to help.

When you come across a Homeless individual, do you help? Walk away and gossip, or maybe walk away and kick yourself for not helping. I'm guilty of all three, but I know the few bucks I gave to that man was the best money I spent all week.

This is really just an issue that does not looked at very much and I would like to hear some thoughts from our members. Maybe even a personal encounter of your own.


posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 10:53 AM
Hmmmmm....good question. I have wondered whether I give to the "homeless" out of pity or whether I am simply trying to help someone who is down on his luck. There is a distinction, although a fine one.

When approached on the street and asked for money, in the past I have almost always given away my change. Then, one day, my attitude changed somewhat. A fellow walked up to me and told me that he was hungry. I offered to buy him a meal. He told me not to bother and to just give him the money that I was going to spend on his meal. The more I insisted that it was all right and that I didn't mind taking some time out to buy him a meal, the more he actually started to demand "just the cash". Needless to say, I walked away.

Then, one day, I saw a young couple sitting on a median on the edge of a shopping mall holding a sign that said "traveling , just passing through and hungry". I saw them there a week later as well. I started thinking to myself that these people were no longer passing through but that they had actually found a good spot to panhandle. My beliefs were confirmed when I saw the same couple a few months later sitting in a local "watering hole" having a pitcher.

Now I refrain from donating money to anyone on the streets. Oh, I still offer to buy someone a meal but, strangely, the meal is usually turned down in lieu of cash. At this point, I usually change my tune as well.

I'll give someone who is hungry a meal but I won't just give someone money. I keep my "extra change" to myself and simply donate to the United Way or some other bonafide charity. I don't really like to give to charities because of the large overhead and big salaries that they pay to their executive officers but, at the same time, I am loath to give my money away to people who are simply going to spend it on drugs or alcohol. It is a dilemma that genuinely tugs at my conscience but I am learning to stand fast. So now my personal mantra is "I'll feed you but I won't enable you to get drunk or high".

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 10:53 AM
In 1985, when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida, I took a picture that later ended up being on the front page of one of the newspapers there. In the picture there was a man who was holding a sign that said "Will Work for Food". In the background of the picture you could count 16 Help Wanted signs. When a reporter discovered that some of the panhandlers were taking in upwards of $500-$700 per day and actually owned homes and cars they started cracking down on panhandling.

This got some of the local civil groups up in arms about people who actually homeless getting harmed by the crackdown. This gave one of the local leaders an idea. A program was established to help the homeless get on their own feet.

The way it worked was that a person or family accepted into the program would get a place to stay. Not a shelter, but a furnished apartment or house. They would get new clothing. They would get a job, not a minimum wage job, I'm talking a paid apprenticeship or a company training program resulting in a skilled trade. Medical care, including drug, alcohol or psychiactric counseling if needed. Transportation, up to and including a car given to them.

The deal was simple. The rent, utilities and living expenses would be paid for six months, to give them time to build up some savings. At the end of the six months they would take over the expenses and should be self-sufficent. They originally had places for 60 people in this program. They got 4. The program folded after two years with only 8 people taking advantage of it.

I understand that there are people who for what ever reasons end up homeless and I feel for them, but I have to call into question the statistics on the numbers of them. In 1990 I came back home after my father died. I was working in the military aerospace industry at the time and there was a large reduction in that workforce at the time due to the so called "Peace Dividend" after the break-up of the USSR. I had spent the last 5 years averaging 60 hour work weeks, travelling and living out of hotel rooms. I had some unemployment benefits coming to me and I was able to take it easy for a year by working at a local airport. During this time I moved back in with my mother and sisters in order to help them with the bills. I started getting phone calls from Church groups and Veteran's organizations asking if I needed food or clothing. I couldn't figure out why untill I had a chance to talk to the County Veteran's representative. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was listed by the State Government as a homeless veteran and my information was being provided to these groups.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 11:17 AM
I have a feeling I might be in the minority here, but I stop and talk to homeless people all the time. I see the same ones pretty well every day and I've gotten to know some of them.

I usually don't give change, but I do buy extra lunches a few times a month and give them away. What I never do is pretend they don't exist. Every now and then I run into a rude one, but most of the time they are very friendly.

I don't think it's pity that I feel, but more of a sense of helplessness. That, and a healthy dose of 'There but for the grace of God go I'.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 11:20 AM
Here's a personal encounter for you.

I used to live on the streets. Only for about 6 months, but I've panhandled, slept in parks, eaten at soup kitchens and tried desperately to find a job without a place to clean up or get phone calls. I've seen the look in people's eyes, both those who felt sorry (sympathy, pity) for me and those who despised me. I prefer the former. I don't think it matters to a homeless person as long as you help out if you can.

So now, when I come across a homeless person, yeah, I help. If someone is standing outside the grocery store, I'll pick up something extra and give it to them. Once a man asked me for $1.10 for a beer and I gave it to him. He was honest. My husband saves his change all year and around Christmas, we roll it all up and go out and just hand rolls of coins to homeless people in our small town.

It cannot be said that all homeless people are lazy or whatever any more than it can be said that all of any group are a certain way. But I'd rather help someone who didn't really need it than to withhold help from someone who did.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 11:26 AM

Originally posted by Duzey
I don't think it's pity that I feel, but more of a sense of helplessness. That, and a healthy dose of 'There but for the grace of God go I'.

Duzey, this probably sums up the way that I feel about the question of homelessness. I simply cannot solve the problem myself and I don't see the government doing anything about the problem either.

So many of the homeless are teens who are running away from a bad home situation or are simply running wild until it stops being fun. There are alcoholic and drug addicts and, of course, the mentally ill.

These are all problems that can and should be addressed by the government but, at the same time, these are problems that would often necessitate "taking away one's rights". How does one, for example, take a mentally ill person off of the streets and into an institution without infringing on their civil rights? The same goes for forced treatment for the alcoholic or the drug addict.

This is not a simple problem and most of the "solutions" are issues in themselves.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 11:51 AM

Originally posted by Benevolent Heretic
My husband saves his change all year and around Christmas, we roll it all up and go out and just hand rolls of coins to homeless people in our small town.

That is something very special you and your husband do.

Duzey, I agree 100% with what you have said. It is a feeling of helplessness that consumes my stomach when I have these encounters. In my family I always try to be the guy you can turn too, if my brother or sister ever needed anything I always stepped up without being asked. I always sacrifice for family members to make sure they are happy. Having been raised by a mother who is not really strong willed, and having younger siblings, I enjoyed the role. So when I find myself feeling helpless, it frustrates me. I wish I could do more.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 02:11 PM

Originally posted by benevolent tyrant
These are all problems that can and should be addressed by the government but, at the same time, these are problems that would often necessitate "taking away one's rights". How does one, for example, take a mentally ill person off of the streets and into an institution without infringing on their civil rights?

Excellent question. I don't know about the US, but in Canada many of the homeless people I encounter are mentally ill people. How do you deal with that?

I'd also be curious to know if the feeling that this is something the government should be involved in is shared by those in the US.

PS. BH, thanks so much for sharing that. It must be hard enough trying to survive without having to deal with people's contempt. Homeless people are human beings too.

posted on Aug, 17 2006 @ 08:38 PM

Originally posted by chissler
I've always come from a small town, so most Social Issues are not something I come across on a daily basis.

Chissler, I haven't gotten into this thread quite yet, but I want to set the record straight on something. No matter how small a town you come from, there are social issues. Social issues are not the same as social problems, but when we think of social issues we are often thinking about them because there is a problem.

What I have tried to do here on Social Issues is to expand the scope of the discussion beyond the blatantly political, because there are plenty of things going on in our world that have nothing to do with the kind of partisan bickering that passes for politics these days.

Whenever more than one person is involved in anything, politics often follows because norms so often fail to have the desired effect without the force of law. In fact, feminism has made the phrase, "what is personal is political," or words to that effect, its motto.

While I do believe that this is an extreme position that has had a negative effect on society, it is no less real.

Everyone who posts here would do well to keep this in mind. This approach will enhance our discussions and broaden our perspectives so that we can more completely understand not only the problems we face, but why these problems exist in the first place.

[edit on 2006/8/17 by GradyPhilpott]

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 07:33 AM
Allow myself to reword my initial statement;

I come from a small town so facing extreme social issues is not something I am accustomed with. Something like homelessness is not something I see on a regular basis, racism is something that may exist but is minimal in my area due to a small population.

My intent was not to deny its existence in small town societies, but acknowledge how you have to dig alittle deeper. Its like the weather, we have alittle bit of everything but nothing is pushed to the extreme.

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 09:44 AM

I reckon that none of youse have run into the
"I ran out of gas, do you have a buck or two?"

they are the latest wrinkle to the con jobs/scams of the street people
to seperate the marks from their hard earned monies.

I've been mugged & robbed, became homeless the next day
as i hadn't $ for the flophouse, cockroach infested trap rented daily...
I went down to the Salvation Army, got $50. bucks (advance/loan)
which i was able to return to the SA about 1 month later.

i also tell 'em Donors can get $15-20 for a 'plazma' donation,
it's a bout a half-a-day deal with getting to the (seedy) area clinic,
extracting the blood - seperating the plazma- returning the blood
back to your system, but one can do that for 3X a week.
But you'll have ready cash when you elect to donate...

[edit on 18-8-2006 by St Udio]

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 10:08 AM

Originally posted by St Udio
i also tell 'em Donors can get $15-20 for a 'plazma' donation,

I've done that myself during the hard times. I saw on the news recently that a lot of folks are selling plasma just to pay for gas. Most interviewed saw it as a win-win situation. The plasma people get their plasma and the "donor" gets some gas money in an easy, relatively painless process.

[edit on 2006/8/18 by GradyPhilpott]

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 11:12 AM
In Canada, we don't purchase blood so our homeless and poor do not have that option.

St Udio, I've run into 'I'm out of gas' more times than I can count, and it's not new. I've been hearing that one for almost 20 years.

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 11:38 AM
I see "homeless people" every damn day.

I use the term sparingly because, while it's true that these people do not have homes per se, I believe most (but not all) of them do so by choice. For the majority of these people, I prefer the more traditional and accurate term "bum". I have even tried referring to these people using the term "beggar", for some strange reason I get horrified looks in return, as if I were referring to old Calcutta, or medieval times or something....go figure!

Since I work in a city that caters to the ultra left-wing (Cambridge, Massachusetts), the bums of this region have it pretty good. One has only to do a simple Google search on "cambridge ma homeless" and you will get my drift. Being a bum in Cambridge is not a tragedy, its grants you access to a large social circle replete with benefits, accomodations, free meals, jobs, medical care.......things that most third world peoples literally would kill for. But despite all these programs and benefits, designed to bring these people off the street........they steadfastly refuse.

Instead, they congregate on the same damn after day, week after week, month after month...with their signs and change cups. Most are outfitted with some form of backpack or tote bag, a few have bikes that they ride. Some even have cell phones on their belts......I kid you not. At night they all camp out in the woods near the subway station and drink and do drugs and generally whatever else they want. Mostly, though, it involves alcohol and heroin. And despite all the help, care, and thoughtfulness of the legions of social-welfare types that live around here.....the bums simply prefer to live in the woods, get drunk and high, and beg for money at the roadside.

While homelessness is not my preferred charity (I prefer the March of Dimes and the Jimmy Fund), I would have no problem giving a donation to a local food pantry, homeless shelter, or house for battered women. There are truely "homeless" people out there who need a break and good assistance. However, I will never give money to a bum in the street. I find the thought of paying for an alcoholic's vodka or a junkie's smack too repulsive to bear.

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 11:55 AM
Not every bum is the innocent victim, this is an obvious fact that we all understand.

But what of the young children that never had a choice? I spent 2 weeks in Vancouver about a year ago and was in shock to some of the sites I saw. Homeless people everywhere, this was my first experience with this on a large scale. But my major problem was this young girl, I would be lying if I thought she was 16. In the dead heat of summer she was dressed in a large dirty jacket with the same rugged clothes everyday, with the same sign. Day in and day out she stood there with the sweat creating a puddle around her almost. My heart broke every day I saw this girl and routinely tossed out some change to her, wishing I could do more.

Now if this girl was doing this by choice, her and I should be locked up. This young girl looked broken on every level and yet stood there hoping for spare change. She never asked for a cent, just hoped that complete strangers would have it in their heart to spare alittle something.

Not every bum had the choice, not every bum is to blame for their problems. Some people never had the opportunity.

We must accept that a high percentage of these people need to help themself, and are capable. But how can we turn your heads to those innocent ones who aren't able to help themselves. My father and I often talk of this young lady, and say how much we wish we could have done.

[edit on 18-8-2006 by chissler]

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 12:27 PM
I''ll second what chissler said.

I've handed unsolicited lunch bags to several homeless people (I don't consider a tent in Stanley Park a home) and the gratitude I get in return makes me want to cry.

I very, very rarely give money. What I give is food, respect and common courtesy. I look them in the eye, say hello and smile. I treat them as if they aren't bums.

I am well aware that some of these people have homes but like BH said, I'd rather help someone that doesn't need it than not help someone who does.

posted on Aug, 18 2006 @ 01:54 PM

Originally posted by Duzey
I am well aware that some of these people have homes but like BH said, I'd rather help someone that doesn't need it than not help someone who does.

Well said.

This past week I moved about 4 hours from where I have lived my whole life, so I am relatively new to this area. Just stepped out to go to the grocery store for a minute and actually saw three more individuals with a sign. I never actually noticed them until one crossed in front of my car to take some change from an elder man, and then they caught my eye. Now after seeing that man last week, that young girl and now these men, well this time I am singing a different tune.

On all previous accounts the bums were sad looking and had a genuine look on their face when you offered what you could. Well these men today were alittle off, when the older man passed the $10 bill, he kind of laughed it off and walked away. My girlfriend and I never said nothing but we both knew we were thinking of offering what we could, that is until we seen his reaction. Something just did not sit right with me after watching this.

I find it strange that I had this happen to me today, in my whole life I may have only come across a handful of homeless people, and in the last week I run into two separate situations.

posted on Aug, 19 2006 @ 05:35 AM
My heart bleeds everytime i see homeless people
I always give them money.
I could never pass them by...unless i didnt have money myself.
Help your fellow man always.

posted on Aug, 19 2006 @ 05:39 AM
Having had trying times, sincerely, if you want to help discretely; give items such as:
personal care,
sm. amts. money
offers of work

posted on Aug, 19 2006 @ 07:46 AM
Any individual who wants to turn down work, clothing, food etc. and request money is not the sort I am looking to help here. I would still like to help, but my focus here is on the select group that would cherish pieces of clothing or a warm meal to help them with their day.

My kryptonite is that I always try to find the good in people, no matter what they are guilty of I always try to find something to smile at and in some cases I am lying to myself just to believe there is some good in the person. So when I run into any homeless person I see them as the innocent victim, which is not always the case.

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