Thursday, May 29, 2008

How not to help the homeless

Yesterday Emma and I walked to a coffee shop to plan our trip to Bangladesh/India, on our way a man "hard on his luck" asked for a dollar. I agree that you should never give a pan handler money, especially here in my city, where we have social services available. The reason I believe I should never give a pan handler money is they will likely spend it on an addiction, and some pan-handlers make a lot of money from pretending to be in dire need.

However, there is a basic principle. If a person needs food they need food. If they are an addict, then they REALLY need food, because they wont spend any money on food, only their addiction. So I have a policy if someone (In the US or Canada) begs, I will give them food, but never a penny.

So Emma gave him some spare change, and I said "I will buy you some food if you want" frankly expecting him to say no. Sadly, twice "hungry" people have told me no. "Could I have some money for food? No, I dont want your food, I want your money." So when the man said yes I was surprised.

There was an indian restaurant steps away with a menu out front. I was pointing out that there was some rice and dal (lentils) and I forgot that not everyone lived with a pakistani dude, so I accidentaly said "Dal" instead of "Lentils" and the guy started saying "Doll? Doll?" and said "Do they have a hamburger on there?" Emma pointed to a Super America across the street, and said "you can get a hotdog there" and I all three of us thought that was a great idea.

As we were walking in he asked if he could have something to drink, and I said "I can get some juice" and he said "No I dont like juice" and I am like, "fine, I can get some pop." So as I walk in I am planning to get him 2 hot dogs, a soda, and a salad. We approach the hot dog machine, and he points to some big hot dogs and says "I want those." I walked to the cooler and found some veggies and dip and approached him and made my bleeding heart speech "you dont have to eat these, just take them" and he said "I don't want that! I dont like carrots!" with such intensity I backed off on my "just take them" pledge.

So he is pointing to the big hot dogs, but they have a sign that says "not ready." so I say "eh, those arent ready, but those are" and he says "I dont want those ones, I want those." So my patience is being tested, and I say "look, my friend and I have things to do, I dont have time to wait for that" and he insists he will put it in the microwave, so I say fine. There is one bun, so I just get him one. He goes to get his orange pop, and I look Emma in the eye, and say "I know, I'm stupid" and he heard me.

So then he goes to the cooler with burgers and says "can I have this?" and I say "no" and he says "can I get some chips?" and I say "no." And he is standing in line with me and saying "your not stupid, your not stupid" and the more he says it, the stupider I feel. He says "can you just spare one extra dollar for the bus?" and I say "no." He says "your not stupid, you bought food for a hungry man" and I look at the hot dog and sunkist, and say "This doesnt really count as 'food'" and he kept blathering on, while I regretted not just walking by the jerk when he asked for money.

So I made the decision a few hours later, not only will I never give money to a panhandler, if I give them food, I will pick it out. I will offer them a turkey sandwich and salad (ranch dressing is fine) and if they say they dont want it I will say "okay, have a nice day!" and move on. I cant believe I let a jack-ass pressure me into paying for food that I don't believe in. Besides the protien in the hot-dog, giving that type of food to a person who's body is probably hurting from hunger & drugs/alcohol is like throwing money in the garbage. All it does is fills his hunger, and probably makes him sicker than he already is.

I look forward to providing healthy food to the next panhandler that approaches me, I can either get the warm fuzzy feeling of having given food to a person in need, or I can have another funny story about a person turning down food when they claim to be hungry.

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