The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Friday, August 12, 2005

But users, cheaters, six-time losers hang around the theaters

One benefit of my move to the country is that I won't have to deal with panhandlers every time I walk down the street. I love Deep Ellum, but the homeless population here is starting to get to me. That is, while I'm sure I had compassion for the homeless at some time in my life -- perhaps while in elementary school -- I have reached a tolerance point as of late. I can't tell you if I'm getting panhandled more or if my patience is just getting thinner, but I am getting sick of it. I cannot walk 2 blocks in my area without some guy with his handout and some story honing in on me. "I'm not a thief/drunk/addict. I'm a former veteran/Christian/HIV positive, and I'm just looking to get in a shelter/to buy some food/to get my feet on the ground." No matter how good their story is, it's all crap. They want money for one of four things: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or food. And most aren't concerned about cigarettes (which they can bum) or food. I know this because I have talked to them and watched them for the past two years. They have been an unfortunate part of my daily existence, and I won't cry leaving them behind.

There was a short segment on the local NPR affiliate the other day about some local homeless "solutions." First, they talked with a developer who has this brilliant idea to build subsidized private housing downtown for the homeless. He stated that the overwhelming majority of homeless individuals he had spoken with said that they couldn't wait to turn their lives around and "were already thinking of ways to pay the rent."

There truly is a sucker born every minute. Of course these indigents are going to tell you that they love your idea. They have the practiced ability to tell you whatever they think you want to hear because they know that's the way to a handout. This guy could have asked them how they thought about his idea to hang them up like suits every night with big hangers, and they would have told him how much they enjoy sleeping vertically. Understand, the overwhelming majority of homeless are low-level con-artists and thieves. They'll swipe a tip jar from a bar when no one's looking, but they will not stick you up in an alley. They are scavengers who will rely on their pitifulness or your need to help them to get what they want.

Case in point: A few months ago, a friend of mine and I were leaving a local bar one night when we were approached by a scruffy looking white guy. He was bald and scrawny with a beard and dirty clothes. He first asked if we were from Texas, and when my friend said he was this guy starts saying things that were so racist Robert Byrd would have blushed. Most of his comments concerned how we were white, he was white, and how there were too many blacks in the area. Not that he used the word "blacks," mind you. My friend and I told him to hit the bricks, and he did. Fast forward to two nights ago. I stopped in a local store and Whitey was at the counter asking for a hand out -- FROM A BLACK GUY. Get this, the black guy actually gives him a couple of bucks and our koncerned klansman started kissing the guy's ass like it was made of sugar, telling him how much a help he was and, oddly, telling the black guy that "when [he] lands on his feet, [he'll] but him dinner at Red Lobster!" Evidently, Red Lobster is high-class fare in the white trash community. If a man will sublimate his hatred of a group for a couple of bucks, then he's lacking a bit of sincerity in my book.

The second part of the NPR report focused on some do-gooder who owns a restaurant chain and drives a food van around to the homeless "camps" ("Welcome, boys and girls to Camp Under-The-Bypass. This summer we'll be learning outdoor skills such as how to make a shelter out of soup cans and cardboard.") Anyway, the city has apparently been trying to impede his charity by telling him that he's not helping the homeless by feeding them where they live, but he is not to be deterred. He is on a mission from God. As I recently read, he has his own truth and its useless to try to convince him otherwise.

What I'm seeing are people who have no basic understanding of who and what the homeless are, but are willing to wade waist-deep into the problem. Here are the facts, as I see them:

  1. Most panhandlers are homeless by choice, not because of the Bush tax cuts or evil corporations. There are some crazy mothers out there, but most of them end up in jail or dead. While homeless people may whine about how bad their lives are, they are still unwilling to work a steady job in order to earn a paycheck.

  2. Panhandlers want you to give them money when they ask for it. They don't really want you to buy them dinner (although they won't turn it down) or bring them clothing. They sure as hell don't want you to offer them a job.

  3. Some panhandlers foster an illusion that they are trying to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. This is not true. The person may actually believe it, but odds are that they are just using it to make their marks feel like they are contributing to a greater good.

  4. If a homeless person tells you something in the course of panhandling you, it is almost certainly a lie. They don't need food, they want drugs. They don't need $3 to get into a shelter at midnight -- most shelters won't even let them in after that time!

  5. If you give money and/or food to a homeless person, you are just, and I hate using this psychobabble word, enabling them. People are like other animals. If you want to know how giving money to a homeless person affects the population, I encourage you to go to the nearest beach and feed the seagulls. See how many show up. Better yet, start feeding a stray cat, and then see if it shows by up. By assisting them, we allow them to continue their lifestyle.

  6. Panhandlers will not die if every person was able to tell them to screw off. When's the last time you heard of a homeless person dying of starvation? It doesn't happen.

  7. Contrary to belief, don't ignore panhandlers because you might run into one that wigs because you're not treating them like a person. Always answer, be firm, don't stop to chat.

Am I flogging a deceased equine? Probably, but it's only because it's started to get to me. The rules around here as relates to panhandlers are simple -- they ask, if declined they back off. But lately they've been getting more aggressive. I've been approached in bars and actually had one follow me into a bar one night to argue with me after I'd told him to scram. Unfortunately for him, before I even realized he was behind me, a customer who was evidently a local bouncer bounded up and threatened to kick the guy's ass if he didn't leave (I've noticed that a lot of local employees are more than willing to threaten the homeless).

In order to help the homeless, we've got to all practice tough love. As long as they can count on handouts, they will continue to look for handouts rather than find a job or contribute to society in any way. Anyway, would you give panhandlers money in your neighborhood? Hell, no. You know it would just lead to more panhandlers, and that would just lead to you car getting broken into every other week and people using your backyard as a restroom. All I ask is that you remember that if you feel the need to give someone a dollar in someone else's neighborhood.
Centinel 11:13 AM #


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