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Friday, March 9, 2007


On the route I take to pick up Number One from school every day, periodically (once or twice a month) there is a beggar standing by a stop sign. His sign reads, "I need money for food not drugs." The problem is that everything about his appearance positively SCREAMS "meth-head"--the gaunt frame, the sunken cheeks, the missing teeth. I saw someone pass him a cigarette once, but I have to wonder if he ever gets any cash, ever. The thing is, if what you really want is food, or shelter, or work, there are better and more efficient ways of getting it than begging on a street corner. I suspect that most passing drivers know that, but I suppose that some don't--otherwise why would he keep coming back?



Blogger Lane said...

Hand him a hot dog and see what he does! I did that about a year or so ago. The guy tucked the hot dog under a blanket and kept at it, though I imagine he may have been hungry enough for more than one hot dog.

I've heard people avoid homeless shelters, food kitchens, etc. because they have issues with intrusionary institutions, rules, etc.

(Adriana, not Lane)

March 9, 2007 at 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I once gave a guy in New York my leftover half of a giant burrito, for which he thanked me profulsely and then opened right there and started devouring. One time here I gave a guy parked at the freeway onramp signal half of my sweet potato fries (yay Burgerville!), but he seemed to think I was being weird.

And it's funny about how some people choose to be (or remain) on the streets. And then they go and set up their own communities with their own rules and institutions! Dignity Village here in the PRP is just one example.

March 9, 2007 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger MWR said...

It's odd that he is not there more consistently. Here there is said to be a hierarchy of, and competition for, the best roadside spots. It's interesting to try to figure out what one would do in the same situation/condition. There is surely some tension between a "smoke 'em if ya got 'em" mentality and never wanting to drink the last water in the canteen.

It's too bad that there are not more proactive government resources for helping people who have become dependent on perhaps the most addictive substance known. Too often this addiction is viewed as a matter of (ongoing) choice, with rhetoric about how the addicts all "chose" to use the drug and "choose" to continue doing so. It's comical to think they are "choosing" to continue—in any meaningful sense of the word—administering a substance that has hijacked key chemical pathways in their brains. Moreover, I'm confident we would find that many of them were seriously impaired on the legal substance alcohol when they first tried meth.

Addicts behave insanely, choosing more of the drug over essential food, but a popular view remains that they "choose" to remain in such a state, not that they have a chemically-mediated form of insanity. It's sad.

March 10, 2007 at 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you didn't think I was implying that addicts choose to be so, M. I was talking about the people who choose to opt out of regular social structures (though they may not have chosen to become homeless in the first place). But maybe I'm falling victim to the same myopia as the NYTimes in its lifestyle reporting (opt-out generation, recent article on co-sleeping, etc.). Not maybe, in fact. But back to the homeless--if I recall correctly, one of the rules that Dignity Village has established for its residents is a strict no-drug policy (insert usual disclaimers here--I may be remembering wrong, etc. There's been much less reporting on its current status since Marshall Runkel left his position as Erik Sten's spokesman). Every homeless person has a different story, and I'm sorry if I made it seem I was lumping them all together.

March 10, 2007 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger MWR said...

No, I was just babbling about things that frustrate me about the way others see the world, kicked off by, but not in response to, what you wrote.

It's almost like having a second blog.

O.K., a third blog.

March 11, 2007 at 5:22 PM  

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