Posted: April 3rd, 2012 by Militant Libertarian
Those who have never been on the street cannot relate to the hopelessness one feels.
I was once a vagabond myself, on the streets and without money for several months. When you find yourself without a home, the police get to know you real quick–even if you aren’t a trouble maker. After awhile the harrassment becomes unbearable, and the only refuge you can find is the one place you swore you’d never end up: Skid Row!
Once you’re there, it’s a hard place to escape. Your hierarchy of needs takes over and you spend most of your day standing in line for a meal, a shower and a bed. Most of the churches that hand out meals require you to sit through a sermon before you can have dinner. I remember having to devote close to six hours of my day going through the arduous process of getting lunch and supper–grueling! It’s pretty hard to get back on your feet when most of your time is spent finding nourishment.
And the Mission (or shelter as it’s called nowadays)? Forget about it! You’ll find a healthier environment in the county jail. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to commit crimes just so they can go there to relax. Aside from that, in most major cities, a Mission is harder to get into than the Ritz Carlton during a salesmen’s convention. I remember a cold night in San Francisco when I waited in line for four hours just so I can sit in a fold-out chair for two.
This is why this recent story by the Economic Collapse moved me to both tears and rage:
“What would you do if you came across someone on the street that had not had anything to eat for several days? Would you give that person some food? Well, the next time you get that impulse you might want to check if it is still legal to feed the homeless where you live. Sadly, feeding the homeless has been banned in major cities all over America. Other cities that have not banned it outright have put so many requirements on those that want to feed the homeless (acquiring expensive permits, taking food preparation courses, etc.) that feeding the homeless has become “out of reach” for most average people. Some cities are doing these things because they are concerned about the “health risks” of the food being distributed by ordinary “do-gooders”. Other cities are passing these laws because they do not want homeless people congregating in city centers where they know that they will be fed. But at a time when poverty and government dependence are soaring to unprecedented levels, is it really a good idea to ban people from helping those that are hurting?”
I would wager that most behind the crackdown on feeding the homeless are wilful participants in the corrupt system that has put many of these people on the streets. Not only do they refuse to take their share of the responsibility, but they don’t want their virgin eyes to see the suffering they have caused as they drive home to their gated communities, or subject their precious ears to a plea for help outside their favorite shopping malls.
Most cities that are forbidding the feeding of homeless people cite food safety concerns. This is just an excuse–and there is a way to expose it as such if we band together.
Handing out gift cards to local eating establishments is one way to get around the food safety laws and also gives you peace of mind that the money is not spent on drugs or alcohol.
Another solution requires a concerted effort on the part of concerned citizens and is modeled after Megabite, a program that has worked effectively in the UK for over 10 years. According to their website:
MegaBite is an innovative way of helping people in need on the street.
Donors can buy Meal Squares (a paper ticket that a homeless person can exchange for a meal and a soft drink) from a local Megabite project or by mail order and pass them to a homeless person. The homeless person can then use them to purchase meals and soft drinks from agreed food outlets. The food outlet sends the used Meal Squares back to the local MegaBite project and is reimbursed.
From there, perhaps we can expand the program to include showers. As a former vagabond, I can tell you that being clean is almost as essential as having a place to bed down for the night. One way this can work is to have volunteers with homes open their doors once or twice a week to a family who has been pre-screened. Sure, I can see some flaws in this approach–but, hey–that’s why I’m writing this. I’m looking to you for answers. Give me some suggestions!!!
The growing homeless population needs an alternative to the degrading experience of soup kitchens, Missions and shelters that are often dirty and found in the most depressing parts of town. Making a homeless person feel human goes a long way into building their self esteem and maintaining mental clarity.
Aside from that–we should never allow city managers, mayors, police chiefs, or the privledged residents that butter their bread get the upper hand. They must never be allowed to drive the less fortunate members of their community from the place they have always called home.
These pampered government workers and their wealthy masters should be forced to confront the depression they helped create. They must be made to watch the cancer metastasize and slowly encroach upon their own sheltered lives. Only then will they come to realize that the disease has become epidemic–and perhaps they will start to wonder–could I be next?