I stopped in at a local sports bar to grab lunch and play some Buzztime Trivia. Guy sitting next to me was pretty much like me - older, casually dressed, offering up the occasional comment on a football game. Walking down the street together we would have looked like brothers. After I had been there a half hour he asks, “Say, would you buy me a hamburg”? I was a bit taken aback and he added, “I’m homeless”. I didn’t believe it at first but after some questions the details came out.
He lived in the dumpster behind the bar because it was dry. They have one dumpster for food and another for trash, mostly cardboard boxes and that is where he stayed. The bar is on the out lot of a busy shopping center but the dumpsters are behind a 6 foot tall wood fence. The employees know him and set aside the better leftovers sometimes. He mentioned somewhere that had a shower he could use often enough to stay presentable. The cops don’t bother him.
I asked what his previous life was but all he said was, “I was married - didn’t work out”. I think I’ll take him a plate on Thanksgiving if i can find him.
You’re very nice. Fix him.up some toiletries in a ziplock bag. A razor, soap, travel size shampoo, lip balm. And socks. Homeless people like socks.
We were checking out of a hotel in Louisiana one time. It was a nice hotel. Not 5-star, but good. I saw a man sitting out front when we were in the office. He was dressed nice and clean. When we came out he walked up to Mr.Wrekker and started a longish tale how he had picked up a women the night before. She robbed him, money, phone, took off in his car. The hotel clerk came out and hollered “Ernie, get out of here” The guy walked off. The clerk said he’s been telling that story for years and raked in lots of cash, but he was just a homeless schlub. We saw the same man down the street at a gas station. Mr.Wrekker gave him $20. I asked him why he did that. He said either way the guy was down on his luck.
There is a cadre of homeless folks here that earn money by selling a newspaper called “Street Roots”. The guy in our neighborhood is William and we talk to him every week, usually when buying a loaf of bread at the bakery he stands in front of. He’s smart and always gives a synopsis of the major story in the paper. The price is a buck. I always give him at least three without making a deal out of it. I don’t know his story, but I see him quite often, carrying his belongings in a duffel bag. While a lot of these folks are druggies and people with mental problems, some of them are just down on their luck.
When I lived in DC homeless people would go into the Smithsonian museums and take a stack of (free) pamphlets from the information desk which they would try and sell as souvenirs to tourists walking on the mall for a couple of bucks apiece.
When I lived in NYC there was a guy who often hung outside the corner grocery store and asked if you would buy food for his kids. I think he had a home, and a welfare check that ran out, since he showed up mostly at the end of the month. Often, he hung out with a woman who was usually pregnant.
I was tempted to give him some condoms. But I usually did pick up some milk and a box of cereal if he asked for it.
Yes, I always feel perplexed by the obviously fake, or occasionally genuine, stories. I figure, if someone is begging for money on the street, that is enough reason to give them money! (and/or food, etc), no need for a back story.
(Also you are not obligated to give every single person money: when you are begging from total strangers, textbook short cons, violently cursing them if they don’t give enough, or following them home(!), all not cool.)
An annual tradition evolved among my friends and me to gather each year at someone’s house in the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
Everyone brings a large, reusable sturdy bag such as for grocery shopping and their choice of a contribution to be distributed among however many bags we are making up for the year, usually one per person.
Into each bag we put hat, gloves, socks, a coat or jacket, small blanket, about $5.00’s worth of coins, toiletries, notepad, pens, canned and instant food items, pet treats/food, local maps, handwarmers, etc. and a printed list of various resources for the homeless, including food banks, shelters and the like.
Everyone carries a completed bag in their car and gives it to a needy someone they encounter during the year.
The encounters I’ve had with my beneficiaries have all been positive, some very touching. It has become an important part of my annual festivities.
Many years ago, when I lived in NYC, I frequently saw the same homeless guy and his dog on a street I frequented. I had a lot of quarters that I was wrapping up into rolls, so I thought I’d give this guy a roll each day on my way to work. Day 1, I handed the guy a roll of quarters. He looked at it, said “What is this shit?” and threw it back at me, hard, hitting me in the eye. I had to go to the ER.
One of my Dad’s acquaintances used to live on a loading dock at the back of a building in the CBD. I was talking with one of my friends one day, and wondered out loud why the business would let the guy do that.
My friend introduced me to the concept of an “ecological niche”. If the business doesn’t let somebody responsible and stable live on their loading dock, they get some irresponsible asshole living on their loading dock.
It’s a nice story, and it’s good to help another human being.
But when I read stories like this I always wonder: why is this nice person still homeless.?
The bar employees leave food for this guy regularly. He has a stable life of sorts, decent conversational and social skills, was married. But has the guy ever suggested that he be allowed to work at the bar?Why not ask him to wash dishes for an hour a day, and then see what develops?
I was once sitting in a similar situation: on a bench outdoors at a small pizza/ice cream stand at the beach.A casually dressed,but not sloppy, woman approached asking for spare change, with a short sob story about being homeless. She appeared clean and reasonable. And when I suggested that maybe instead of spare change, she might prefer $50 dollars or so today, she looked up at me. Then I pointed to the sign on the countertop saying “help wanted”.
She turned violent, cursing loudly and actually took a swing in my direction (without hitting me).
when I lived in NYC I ran into a lot of beggars. I decided that if I happened to have food with me, I’d give it to them if they asked me for help. I offered people bagels, leftovers from Chinese, mandarins, once I offered a guy a box of strawberries.
About half gratefully accepted. And about half hissed at me and moved on to a group of potential donors who hadn’t seen them turn me down. I was never physically assaulted, though. Wow. And you even gave him cash. I wonder if he even knew it was cash.
This is actually somewhat complicated if the establishment wants to follow employment law. They need paperwork, for starters. (Proof he’s a US citizen or has a working visa, SSN, that sort of thing.) It’s probably not legal to let him work just for the right to trespass.
Now, half the restaurant employees in NYC are illegal (a wag, and I may be exaggerating, but it’s a big number) so maybe that’s not a consideration. But as society gets more organized it’s harder to cut deals like that.
I’ve been homeless and it is very hard on a person. Nobody should have to live on the streets or in a shelter, and the people who help those unfortunates are very fine human beings. There was a church across the street from the shelter I stayed at. One day hey held a free market with donated clothes. The part that really impressed me was the group of young ladies (high school studesnt I think) who were handing out five dollar bills to the people coming out. I told them they made me feel optimistic about the upcoming generation.
I now work in a discount store. I’ve had people who buy cartloads of toys and tell me they’re giving them to a toy drive. I love those people. Hey, anyone can make an on-line donation, but it takes special people to schlep.
As I tell people: Change the name and the tale is told about you. You could be homeless one day too.
When hubby was still a road deputy, official policy in the large county where he worked was to transport transitory homeless folks to the next jurisdiction. (And that’s not a heartless NIMBY thing. The county had no type of homeless shelter, so a ride to the next interstate-adjacent truck stop was generally a positive for the person in transit.)
After T and I married, my daughter learned about this. Her 9-year-old heart was all “Mama, that’s not good enough!” So we brainstormed.
Money was tight, so we started a change jar. When it was full, we rolled coins, and used the proceeds to make comfort bags. A Ziploc with dry socks, shelf-stable nutritious foods, travel size toiletries, enough quarters for a shower at the truck stop, that sort of thing. Added a little note of encouragement, and made sure that every deputy had a bag in the trunk. We collected used jackets and blankets and backpacks from friends and family.
Now that hubby is medically retired, daughter and I still collect change and drop off bags to another deputy who keeps the tradition alive. There’s still no shelter in that county.
Years ago (holy crap, almost a quarter century? That can’t be right!) I was tending bar in a downtown urban place. One afternoon, a homeless man was assaulted outside my workplace. Obviously, I called the emergency line, and the EMT who had been enjoying her happy hour drink rendered aid until on-duty arrived. I gave my witness statement (the bar patrons couldn’t, because I was facing the window, and customers at the brass rail had their backs to it.)
The only other statement was given by the companion of the victim. I spoke to him the next day.
Victim was non-verbal, and, I think, schizophrenic. Companion was bipolar (according to him, and I saw enough to think he was absolutely correct.) Victim and companion lived rough. Neither was in any shape to be employed. But neither was scary. Just homeless and crazy.
The reason I spoke to the compadre the next day was that he came to let me know his friend was okay, and to thank me. He also let me know that they usually watched when I was closing the bar, because I was little, and had to take out the trash in the alley and then get in my car at 3am. Apparently, I reminded Companion of the daughter he’d lost touch with. (It wasn’t creepy, in spite of how it sounds.)
After that, I was able to convince the Amigos to stop at the back door when I worked. They binned the trash for me. I made sure they had a sandwich and something to drink. They made sure I got to my car safely. I arranged for a (male) friend to nab them once or twice a week for showers and laundry at his place. And so forth.
Both were really unemployable, even assuming they had proper ID. Absent the mental health services that they truly needed, it was the best I could do. That’s still the case, far too often.
At one time in my life I worked for a public housing agency, renovating properties and building new ones. It’s easy to get jaded when you see some of the folks living in these places seemingly uninterested in getting jobs yet having a 50" TV in the living room. At a meeting one week, a couple of my employees were grousing about this. I was about to quash that talk when another guy suddenly said, loudly, “You know, there is not one god damned one of you who isn’t two paychecks away from being in their shoes! Shame on you!” They both had the decency to look sheepish.
Can a person pay the rent with only a part-time job washing dishes? (Whether on or off the books.) If not, working at the bar may help by netting him some cash and free food, but remember the guy needs at least $1000 per month, every month, just for an apartment unless the city hands out free housing.