Saving the World, One Dollar at a Time

The "Night of the Living Homeless" episode of South Park really hit home with me since Hawai'i has such a high homeless population.I spent my teenage years near Fort Scott, Kansas, and still remember the first time a homeless person came to our town. EVERYONE was talking about. People came into the restaurant I was working at and would ask "did you see the homeless guy? Apparently he's from Michigan."After spending much of the day begging next to the bank, a few cops picked the man up and brought him to a homeless shelter 30 miles away, and people slowly (or not-so-slowly) forgot about what they had seen.When I moved to Hawai'i, I was instantly greeted with homelessness everywhere I looked - and it's no surprise, really. The price of housing is ridiculous here, and most jobs don't pay extra to counter the high cost of living.There are "blue tent beaches" where the homeless literally live on the beach in blue tents because they can't afford housing. Even some people who have full time jobs will beg on the streets in the evenings because even with their full time salary, they cannot afford their rent or food for their families.So what's a person to do?I've heard too many mixed opinions on this to count, but there seem to be two main schools of thought: "Don't give money to homeless people because they'll just use it on drugs, or "Give money to homeless people because it's what Jesus would do."When I'm driving home from wherever I happened to have gone, and I see someone with a "Hungry, please help" sign, I tend to err on the side of "it's what Jesus would do, give the poor guy a hamburger."My church has a food bank program, as do many churches in the area. Low-income families can go in once a week or once a month and receive free groceries and financial counseling from the church. My church also gives out clothing and other household items that may be useful to those in need.But is this enough?As someone who makes more money, am I obligated to help those who are poorer than me? And if so, to what extent? Is it simply enough to give a dollar to a man in passing and tell him to "be well," or should I be doing something else, like offering him a place to stay or helping him find a job interview? What if I don't have the space in my home? How far should I go to help "get someone off the street"? And should I be helping more than one person off the street?Thoughts?


OtherJoel 14 years ago

'There are "blue tent beaches" where the homeless literally live on the beach in blue tents because they can't afford housing.'You know, if you're gonna be homeless, you could pick worse places, I'd think. And if you're a decent fisherman and somewhat resourceful, you could pretend you're on "Lost." If only there was a Kate...I think I've become kind of jaded. Spending the last eight years between Washington DC and KC, as much as I hate to admit it, I've gotten to a point where I don't notice it as much. You get used to not making eye contact and pretending you didn't hear them hitting you up for money. It's awful, but I'd never get anywhere or have any money of my own if I actually responded to everyone. In my more empathetic days, I gave a couple of guys hanging out outside fast food restaurants burgers, and I used to try and give change when I had it on me. But that was some time ago. I think food is preferable. Even if they aren't going to blow it on drugs or booze, everyone needs to eat. I am now thinking about the Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry offers a homeless guy a tuna sandwich and the guy goes "I don't like tuna."

DOTDOT 14 years ago

Why blue?Anyway, if stewardship is an issue, taking care of your family is central. You are where you are because of decisions you made, and the same holds for others. Having a roof over your head doesn't necessarily qualify you to "save" another.Treat people with the same level of respect until they give you a reason not to. From the hustler to the crack whore to the politician.Help where you can, but keep your family safe.

alm77 14 years ago

Whoa!! OJ's quoting CYE!! I told you it would grow on you. ;) Here in Lawrence there are enough resources one can safely assume the guy on the street is going to spend it at the Replay or the liquor store (but at least they're spending locally!). So, in the past, we've contributed to the wet shelter by volunteering and serving meals with our church. Depends on your situation, I can't imagine that the homeless people in Hawaii don't know where to go for resources. It's not like they've hitchhiked to get there and are new to the island, right? Sometimes when my friend Seth is on his way to lunch he'll offer to take a homeless guy with him. More times than not, he gets turned down.

measles 14 years ago

One evening I was approached outside my neighborhood convenience store (conveniently located a half block from a liquor store) by a man who shared with me a long background story before hitting me up for change. He'd just gotten in town from Texas, after hitch-hiking for three days, and couldn't find a job or a place to stay, and he was starving. So I gladly offered him a half-order of some damn good Bambino's pasta which was sitting, still warm, in my front seat. He didn't want it. Probably because it was an unacceptable form of payment to the guy at the counter of the nearby liquor store. Maybe, just a guess. Three weeks later, the same guy approached me in the same parking lot with the same sob story, in which he'd still gotten into town just the day before. I went off--in my polite, motherly, doing-a-service-to-society way. I reminded him that I had heard the story already and that he had refused my leftovers when I offered them, and that I didn't appreciate his dishonesty at all. He promptly took his solicitation to another gas station, just across the street. The point is, I hate being so cynical and assuming that everyone who asks for a dime is going to put it towards a forty. But this guy probably was. And yes, Jesus would want us to help him in some way, but would JC want us supporting the cycle of destructive alcoholism that keeps all too many homeless people on the streets? I vote no. But are all of this town's homeless population hustling change for booze? Probably not.On another occaision, an elderly man stopped by on a wintery Saturday morning asking if he could shovel my sidewalk for five dollars. I explained that I had no cash on me, but that I had just pulled a fresh batch of blueberry muffins from the oven. Fifteen minutes later, I had a clean sidewalk and he had a stomach full of homemade goodness. Perhaps it gave him the energy to go job hunting that day, or to shovel more driveways for cash to feed his family. Anyhow, I didn't feel as if I was contributing to the perpetuation of his hardship. He was industrious--willing to work, and willing to accept the payment I had to offer. If you want to do your part to help the homeless situation, my policy is simple: Help those who are willing to help themselves.

paavopetie 14 years ago

Matthew 5:42: [Jesus said]"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."If someone asks me for change, I give it to them if I have any on me. If someone asks me for a couple of dollars, I give it to them if I have any on me. Yes, there are more functional ways to help out someone in need than giving them a couple of dollars they will probably spend on alcohol. But then again, Jesus doesn't really explain his quote to above, so I err on the side of giving. Not to say that I will give my home away to anyone that asks for it. There's a relative "need" that is associated with everything. The homeless man who asks me for money probably "needs" to get drunk as often as he can in order to get through his hardship. Who am I to judge that need? I'm probably just going to spend that money on beer myself. But back to my house, that's a need of my own so I won't be giving it away anytime soon.Anyways, I care about the poor so I vote Democrat, who at least give lip service to helping the poor. Whereas the Republicans just call them lazy and expect everyone to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.Yeah, it's not so easy breaking out of the lower class when the only jobs available are below living wage, and the only way to get higher paying jobs is college, which only the middle and upper classes can afford.

alm77 14 years ago

"Anyways, I care about the poor so I vote Democrat, who at least give lip service to helping the poor. Whereas the Republicans just call them lazy and expect everyone to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps." The Republicans I know are much bigger givers than the Dems I know. I think there was recently a study published and referenced in the LJW that showed this to be true as well. "and the only way to get higher paying jobs is college, which only the middle and upper classes can afford." No way! I know lots of low income people on Pell Grants. With the exception of mental illness, there just aren't a lot of excuses in this day and age in this country for being poor or homeless. I won't deny food and shelter to those with addictions, laziness , or just plain old moochers. They aren't living but simply existing and it's a free country so they have the right to live how they want. I'm more than willing to help them exist and if they're interested in living, I'm definitely willing to help them help themselves. Usually the people who have had an honest series of unfortunate events are able to navigate the programs and get back on their feet.

Terry Bush 14 years ago

Hmmmm. Anyone who thinks that the best paying jobs are reserved for only (or mostly) people with a 4 year college degree have not been paying attention to the job market data. While this may once have been true(r), those days are over. For those who are not adverse to technology and/or getting a little dirtier, the pay scale for tech-ed graduates is generally vastly higher then for someone with a 4 year liberal arts degree! Take a look at the average salaries in only one tech field;,%202008/Advanced%20Manufacturing_Cluster_Analysis.pdf Some of these jobs don't require any prior training, it's on the job, while some companies (e.g. John Deere) are so hard up for techies they'll pay for your training and living costs while you get ready to work for them So those who hold onto the idea that they can't get ahead without a 4 year college degree may want to re-think their ideas and expand the scope of what they're willing to do for a living! There are a ton of great paying satisfying careers out there that do not require a 4 year degree! And those who think that giving to the poor is the sole province of the Dem's are showing their bias and ignorance, big time. Studies have repeatedly show that the opposite is true: be continued

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