Sunday, July 22, 2007

Identification of the homeless

There's a really interesting comment on a post at PokerWorks that refers to homeless.

The post makes reference to two different people (actually 1 person and 1 couple) that are identified as homeless. The first is a beggar in front of an Albertson's. in Las Vegas.
... to an Albertsons store that I usually frequent when I need things. When I parked and left the truck, I could see an older, heavy, black woman sitting in a motorized wheelchair at the entrance to the store She had a cup in her hand and obviously she was looking for some type of monetary help. As I approached she said, “could you spare a little change so I can buy groceries?”

That's clearly a beggar. Homeless? Maybe. Maybe not. Frankly, I doubt it. Albertson's is one of the more expensive grocery stores around vegas. It's not the store a homeless person would choose to shop at in most cases. But, it is the store that a beggar would pick, becuase the customers of Albertson's have demonstrated they aren't that concerned about a few cents per item just by shopping there.

The couple that was identified as homeless is
I saw a young man and woman and what appeared to be all of their worldly goods, stacked in the corner of the Budget Suites parking lot right behind the bus stop bench that borders Boulder Highway. There were a few suitcases and some plastic bags that looked like they held bedding and other goods and the guy was laying on the plastic bags as the woman sat next to him on one of the suitcases.

Homeless? Again, I don't know. They're certianly transients of some sort. I'm suspecting they aren't homeless though. They have a lot of stuff with them. My guess would be that they just moved out of a furnished apartment at Budget Suites and are enroute to a new place of lodging. Maybe it's a step down in status. Maybe a step up. Possible they have no where to go. But if that was the case they'd be more likely to have those worldly possessions spread out on a blanket on the grass to hold in impromtu tag sale.

It's possible that both the beggar and the trainsient are homeless. I doubt it though. They are going through tough times though, and I think that's more the point of the original post.

But there's a mindset that many tend to have when thinking about the homeless that's really judgemental and doesn't serve to help anybody. That mindset is demonstrated by one of the comments to that blog post.
I understand the angst. We’ve all walked past the obvious junky and the true person in need. We don’t have the ability to differentiate. What to do?

Is a homeless junkie any less in need than a homeless depressed person? Will you fail to give a junkie some money because he'll just spend it on drugs? What if that homeless depressed person will just spend it on Hostess Twinkies?

Neither of them are going to starve if you don't give them money, they can find soup kitchens. I've been homeless, soup kitchens aren't really that hard to find.

This game of some homeless are deserving of help and some aren't is just a bunch of moralistic crap. Every homeless person I've ever meet was homeless because of some bad life choices of some kind. Some are smart people with mental disorders. Some are just really stupid people. Some have drug problems. Some have drinking problems. Some drink and/or do drugs but that helps control the mental disorder and they'd be worse off if they didn't drink or do drugs.

You aren't going to be able to distinguish which of the homeless are going to be able to "better themselves" with an extra $5 and which won't. So don't try. You also won't be able to distinuish the homeless from those just having a tough time.

The solution on a personal level is actually easy. If you see someone who needs help and you can help, then help them. It's not rocket science. Don't judge them, don't classify them, just help them out. Maybe they just need a ride to their new house with all their worldly possessions in a bunch of plastic bags.

And if you live in Las Vegas don't ever vote for or even have a nice word to say about a mayor who thinks giving a homeless person a bottle of water just encourages them to be lazy.

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