Homeless: To Give Or Not To Give
Posted by Tim Stiglitz and Winter Kelly on Dec 1, 2002 - 3:05:00 AM
At the outset, let me say that I have never been, nor will I ever be above sharing a few coins for the homeless. Why not? Oh, right, they will likely buy booze or drugs. You know what? I don't care. True, in a strong sense, my kind gesture is affirmatively encouraging bad habits, not to mention a silent physiologic destruction perhaps, but hey, if for those brief moments there is a temporary mental vacation from "not having enough", then I am for it.
The base that I am advocating is one of kindness. A wise philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, once said 'a civilization is best judged by the way the less fortunate are treated'. I think more of us need to follow this, especially at this jolly time of year when frankly it makes no sense to see another human being go without.
I have seen a few of my coins, at times the very last of my coins, create a smile, and often times even a story. If even for a brief time, another was touched. To hear the words "Thank you and God Bless" afterwards, in such a cruel and callously indifferent world as ours, means something to me. Perhaps my coins create hope. Small price really, when you think about it.
My homeless experiences started several years ago on a hot summer day in Santa Monica. I remember clearly how my father held me in his arms with my brother at his side at Santa Monica pier. We were giggling and such and having a great day. We walked by what appeared to be an unclean, poorly clothed pauper. My father stopped, then switched me from one arm to the other, so he could reach into the pocket that held the money, and pulled out a few dollars to give to this very unkempt human being. I remember dad mumbling as we walked away, that it is sad "that they don't have what we have." My dad, a very business-like, confident and somewhat arrogant man, had stopped to share his money with this man in need as if he was one of us, while most people were not giving him the time of day.
Needless to say, I became the same way; giving dollars to any passing transient with a "will work for food" sign or not. Until one day, this homeless man outside of Ralphs on Sunset Blvd asked for money to buy some food, because he was hungry. I did not have money on me, so I said, "On my way out." Upon leaving the store, he hurriedly rushed over to me, to cash in on my promise. In return, I gave him a bag of groceries that I had selected just for him. His reply, "I'd rather have some cash, if you know what I mean." I said, "No, I don't know what you mean" and walked away. He continued to follow me with high hopes. So, what gives him the gall to ask for money when he is getting food? I mean, he says he was hungry and that is why he wanted cash. Hence, the food and it is not as if I bought him cheap food either.
Revelation: Beggars are simply just that: beggars. They are not necessarily in need of cash. They are in need of some form of professional treatment that I cannot give them, and neither can you. By continuing to fuel these quests for money on our sidewalks, we are just reinforcing a bad habit. My dad seems to think times have changed over the last decade or two, as people just found it a good way to make money. I think we need not reinforce a disgusting habit. Next time when a beggar requests money, hand him some food. If he is hungry, he will eat. Or hand him a card to your local shelter, so he can get some federally funded housing.
So, I agree with Tim: we SHOULD give, but not to the person asking because they are not a qualified homeless person. Let's give to organizations that give housing and food to the qualified homeless people. PATH is a wonderful organization that helps 10,000 homeless people every year. They are located at 340 Madison Avenue, Los Angeles, CA90004. Visit their website at epath.org/. You can send your donations there. Just think, if every person that reads this paper gives the one dollar you would give to the beggar outside of the store instead to the homeless shelter, they would have $10,000 more to help more people. That is REALLY making a difference.
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