Friday, April 18, 2008

Homeless 101

I'm writing this so that hopefully less people starve. Years ago in 1985 I visited India and Nepal for 4 months two months in each with my wife and children. In any given area at that time usually between 20% to 40% of the people had no formal education at all and were homeless living on the streets. I learned fairly quickly that giving each person that asked at least some money for food helped them not only physically stay alive but also mentally and spiritually alive. By giving them at least a nickle each made them realize that I as a representative of humanity recognized their right to be alive on planet earth and helped to validate their meager existence. Since I was asked for money by literally hundreds of people for help it sometimes cost me more that $20 to $30 dollars a day in money I gave out. However, each person knew that someone cared enough to help them stay alive another day. At that time $1.50 worth of rice (about 1 cups worth) meant the difference between starving and staying alive.

Though there aren't many obvious homeless people in the county where I live except in strategic cement islands in the middle of main thoroughfares with cardboard signs I recently went to Santa Barbara downtown. I noticed that there were now about 3 times as many homeless people as before. I guess they had come up from Los Angeles because Santa Barbara might be a little safer place to beg for food than Los Angeles now. However, many people who used to be able to afford rent are being priced out of being able to afford even rent and feed themselves. If it were you, I'm sure you also would choose to eat rather than rent a place and starve to death. However, then after moving out of an apartment these people lose their jobs or income and become completely homeless without anything or any way to climb back up to having an apartment again.

What I now do is I take all my quarters and put them in an inconspicuous container that I keep in my car so when someone I see that I feel safe enough to give money to that really needs it I try to give them at least $3 in quarters so that they can get a meal to live another day.

I know that the saying goes, "Give a man a fish and he lives for a day. Teach a man to fish and he lives for a lifetime." However, many of these people are not functional enough or safe enough to do that anymore. So one must be careful who one chooses to help so one does not become a victim like them also. So I would caution all the compassionate people out there to first be compassionate to yourselves and don't put yourself in danger. Be a wise compassionate person. In the end the only people who really can be helped long term are those who are willing to help themselves. In the end it is a very difficult world we live in so be compassionate, be helpful but most of all be very wise about it!

1 comment:

Carol said...

Fred - like you, I also give money to people on the street. In a perfect world, they would work and not have to do this. But its far from a perfect world. Money helps, and yeah, maybe some of them use it for booze or drugs. But ignoring the problem and walking by without looking isn't a solution either. I always try to take the time to talk if I can - even just getting their name and wishing well, that's a lot. God bless you for what you do!