I'm still skeptical
That's not a huge revelation, 'cause I know that by nature we tend to be suspicious of strangers. Add to their stranger status bad clothes, a funky smell, a sullen and/or bizarre attitude, and persistent begging, and you have a deal breaker.
I try to be compassionate, but you may recall past experience has chipped away at that emotion where the homeless are concerned. And I just can't help but think I'm getting punked each time I fork up $.50 cents or a dollar.
This post by my friend Tiggerlane, and last night's episode of South Park made me think of it, as the town was overrun by homeless on a mission for change - no paper money, just change.
It's South Park. So sure, it was goofy and just a little mean. But there was sort of a moral to the story. When I exit the highway each morning in downtown Miami, on the way to the Miami Herald building there is a gauntlet of panhandlers waiting with paper cups, ball caps, tin cans, you name it. And I swear these guys are working in shifts now. I always see the same two guys on Monday mornings. And then there's a different couple of guys the next day. And a different pair in the afternoons. They share the same spot.
I don't know what to tell ya. I'm on the phone trying to set up interviews for an article or explaining to my wife why I'll be getting home two hours later than I originally said. I just don't have a lot of patience for a grown man getting next to my window and grinning and waving his cup at me. It nearly makes me salty.
I understand mental illness plays a huge role in all of this. Drug use too. And a couple of the guys are physically disabled. Otherwise what reasons would a grown apparently healthy man voluntarily stand on the side of the road begging for change?
There's one guy who is only out there on the exit ramp sporadically - sometimes a few days in a row, and sometimes I don't see him for a week or two. I suspect he's getting fed and sheltered in the interim, 'cause his sign looks funny. And like Chris Rock said, if you have enough jollies that you can make a jokey sign asking for money and/or food, you can't be that hungry. Hunger ain't funny. If I was hungry like that I wouldn't be telling jokes - spoken or written. My sign might say "Will die if I don't eat."
I don't know that I'm smart enough to solve the homeless problem. But I know that it bugs me. I won't lie. I hate being confronted by people asking for stuff. But I also hate seeing so many apparently destitute people who need either treatment or a loving kick in the behind to jump start their lives, or a combination of both. I am smart of enough, however, to think of John Bradford when I see these guys.
What to do, what to do?