Mr. wOw Tries to Do a Good Deed

Mr. wOw’s slice of charity

Mr. wOw is not a naturally thoughtful person. Oh, I’m nice enough. And sensitive enough, in that I cry when those damn abused-animal commercials come on. I love B. and I love the few friends I have. I try not to be horrible.

But I have always been a bit…distracted. I drift a lot, mentally. I don’t listen, for example, no matter how many times I’m reminded when your birthday is. And when I realize your birthday has passed, I’m bereft. But screw bereft, Mr. wOw, how about putting up a Post-It on your computer?

I’m not naturally charitable, either. It’s an impulse thing. For several years around the holiday season I went with friends to dish out warm meals to the homeless, or to those living at hospices. But without the impetus of my friends (or their on-the-spot, aren’t-you-wonderful approval) I drifted away from that. Which is too bad. I sure did feel I was doing something worthwhile. And yes—it made me feel better about myself. Sometimes selfishness works.

When the great tsunami hit back in 2004, I’d just received a rather generous bonus. The magnitude of the disaster, the loss of life was so overwhelming I sent in $500 toward relief. I can’t say I was literally moved by the plight—I didn’t cry or lose sleep or anything– but I was certain I had an extra $500 and what the hell else was I going to do with it? Also, it was Christmastime.

So, with some sense of my giving nature, I want you to imagine Mr. wOw at the Port Authority the other evening, standing on line, waiting to buy a ticket to fabulous Hoboken, New Jersey. (Yes, I know I should buy a monthly pass. But why do something that would make my life easier?)

My patience was wearing thin, as entire families were ahead of me, none of them super-acquainted with English, all paying with credit cards (more time wasted!) and none of them quite knowing exactly where they were going. Maps were being unfolded! The more impatient I became, the uglier my thoughts were. I kept forcing myself back into reality—Mr. wOw, would you know the language in Spain? Don’t most people pay for most everything with credit cards? And this is a bus station. People are going to ask where they are going. That’s what bus stations are for! Asshole.

Just as I’d settled in, head-wise, and berated myself properly, a fortyish African-American man approached. He was using a cane, and carrying a little card, asking for money to eat. He was tall and rather hearty looking. He’d not shaved for a few days and wasn’t wearing the latest stylings from Prada, or even The Gap, but he didn’t look needy to me. I waved him away, and busied myself fussing with my much-too-long hair. (I’m now working that hot Albert Einstein look.)

Almost as soon as I did my dismissive hand gesture, I regretted it. The night before I’d watched Anderson Cooper reporting from Somalia—thousands dying of starvation. Okay. Just because this guy is black, he’s not from Somalia, obviously, and don’t get your white guilt in a twist. He’s probably a drug addict. NO! No, No! Why, Mr. wOw, do you think that? Because he’s black, he has to be a drug addict? Maybe he really is hungry, or at the very least, poor and looking for shelter? Why are you such a bitch?

Finally, I got to the window, made my cash ticket purchase, and looked around for the guy with cane. He was approaching other people and getting nowhere. But he wasn’t making a fuss, just moving on. He still looked awfully healthy, but so do I, and I’m not, actually. I resisted the impulse to give him money. He was hungry, really? Fine. I’d get him some food.

I sprinted over to the deli thingy in the PA, and looked to see what I could buy. I spotted a luscious turkey sandwich, very big. “How much is that?” I asked. Without answering the guy behind the counter plucked the sandwich from its display. “How much is that?” I repeated, as he began wrapping it up.

“Eleven dollars.”

“What? I’m not paying eleven dollars for a turkey sandwich. Why are there no prices on anything?”

He handed me the sandwich, “Price is there.” No it wasn’t and eleven dollars was three dollars more than I was even carrying.

I declined the turkey and suffered some typical slurs.

My hungry man had begun to wander away from the ticket area, but he wasn’t exactly trotting, so I crossed the floor and went into the pizza-type place. Should I venture a stromboli roll, or a calzone? No, better one of these double-stuffed, super-slices of pizza—one is practically a meal.

So I ordered the veggie-slice (even street people should eat healthy) It took forever. No, I did not want a drink. Yes, please put it in that cute triangular box. Why is the person in front of me speaking Mandarin? Not that I have anything against the Mandarins. And if could speak another language I might choose that one because it’s so… Rita Hayworth in “Lady From Shanghai.”

Finally, I have the slice. But I don’t have my guy. Cane, sign and all, he has vanished. I go to the ticket counters. I scope out the first floor. I go to the second, though I can’t imagine he’d have made it that far in only a few minutes. I check the bathrooms. Not a pleasant task. Nor one that suits a fey middle-aged man. Back in the day I was arrested twice in the PA. It was all kinda cute then. As was I. Those cards have been played.

And while I hurry hither and thither, holding the slice, looking for this man, I keep thinking, “And just why are you doing this? What are you trying to prove? Why don’t you just be a bit nicer to B? You’ll feel better. And he doesn’t even require pizza. Or if you must—send money to Somalia. You have a bit extra right now. That will make you feel worthwhile.”

After twenty minutes I gave up. It was the peak of rush hour and I had a feeling I was being watched—especially as I bopped in and out of the foul men’s rooms. “Oh, you see officer, I want to give this pizza to…” Yeah, sure.

I caught my bus. I gave B. a big kiss and tried to be cheerier. I donated $100 to Oxfam, which works in conjunction with Aid The Children. This will feed a family of six for two weeks.

Uh, the slice? And so, dear reader, I ate it.

83 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Thanks for the smile to go along with my Diet Coke…after a day like today, I really needed that smile.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Miss Lee…

      If I give anybody a smile, I feel I have done good. 

      But..why Diet Coke?  Honest, the calorie diff is not so much. 

  2. avatar Miss Lee says:

    Why the beverage?  It was the only thing I had in the frig at work and I was too lazy to walk to a machine.  Now I am heading home for a gin & tonic…TGIF!

  3. avatar Lila says:

    Mr. Wow, an honest and hilarious look at your thought process… which is pretty much like mine, sometimes.

    I think you were right in your reasoning. When you buy a beggar food, you will quickly see just how needy they are. I have done this several times and usually it is well received and appreciated. But on one occasion, there was this woman begging miserably in a city square in Frankfurt. So I bought some food, as you did, and gave it to her. She looked disgusted, but took it; I did not understand her reaction. A little while later, I saw her again… turning over the bag of food to her “handler,” who was not so pleased. The light bulb went off in my head. It was a moneymaking ring, and had I given money – it would have gone right to this scuzzbucket who was basically just a beggar-pimp. Too bad the food ended up with him, but at least it can only be eaten and not used for anything else.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Lila…

      And you know what…I was looking around for him today. 

      I even had eleven dollars.

      • avatar Anais P says:

        To avoid regular folks getting taken advantage of, and to help really poor people, not grifters, my city discourages donations to individual beggars and advises donating instead to several legitimate local charities that help the homeless. It would be a lot easier for Mr. Wow to donate to one of these kinds of organizations, instead of spending so much time buying pizza and searching for the man on the street. But I found the column quite entertaining. Glad the piece of pizza was not wasted!

  4. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    I have the opposite problem really. My thought processes work in a similar fashion but I have this insatiable need to give something to everyone who is looking for a handout. I too feel guilt that it isn’t enough, or I scold myself when I am thinking that they are probably going to buy alcohol or drugs, but I can’t help it. My husband is much like you. He is an attorney whose career depends on his ability to size people and situations up quickly and accurately. However, he keeps a bunch of dollar bills in the car because he can’t deal with my middle-class guilt or my constant reminders he is a civil rights lawyer when we go out. Here in Florida, there is a panhandler on every street corner. Most are vets, but there is a rising number of newly poor who have lost their homes and jobs due to the economy. It’s heartbreaking. Hubby has learned not to argue and let me give out a couple of bucks here and there, and I have made hubby join the cause by taking on one new client a month whose lost his/her job and who can’t afford to pay their costs.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Lisa…

      Your hubby is a better person for your arguments.  It’s hard.  And I am a cynic.  But I give in more often than not, really. 

      I’ve been on that end.  I’ve been on the street.  And I’ve never forgotten. 

  5. avatar Mary says:

    I go to a bigger town than mine about once a week.  A few weeks in a row I would see the same man at one of the shopping areas .  He looked rather pathetic and he would sit periodically on the curb near the entrance of the center .  He looked hopeless, scruffy and disheveled to say the least.  A sign around his neck saying he would work for food.   Well I happen to have some connections with a service in town that hires people for temp jobs on construction sites.  I felt so happy with myself for calling them.  My heart felt good as it realy bothered me that someone had to sit on a curb with a sign around their neck in the hot hot , humid weather.  The work site came and got him in a van and off the sign man went.  I’m thinking, ok , you did your deed for the day , now enjoy.

    I didn’t think much more about him and hadn’t seen him for a while when about a month later I see in the newspaper that this guy was arrested for threatening people who would not give him cash when we went up to their windows while they were stopped at streetlights.  He broke a couple of windows in cars with a baseball bat that he was now carrying around.

    I called the construction site that I had set him up with and asked how it had gone when he was working.  They told me that he was lazy, threatening and verbally harrassing everyone and they had to let him go. 

    I thought ok, I have learned a lesson.  I will be much more cautious of who I try to help.  Then I thought a little bit more.,  The world is made of many kinds of people.  Some are realy trying to make it and struggling , others are making money from the fact that there are many out there, and some are people like you and me who are just trying to make someone feel better, even if for only a short time.  We do what we can and that is all we can do.     You did good Mr. Wow, hope your slice was delicious.  

  6. avatar Andy C says:

    Mr. Wow – Thank you for an end of the week chuckle and, the thought processes that, if we’re honest, we all go through.

  7. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Dear Andy…

    I hate myself  for my impatience, my sudden little bigotries and stereotyping.  But in recognizing that in myself, I see the struggle in others who are less aware.  Especially as I am a member of an often despised minority.

    Hand in hand, we have to overcome.  We will. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I think we all wonder when we’re approached for money. Odd that you bought something.  Most people don’t think of it. I learned about two years ago that offering to buy them something to eat usually indicates whether they’re looking for something to eat or looking for money to buy something else. I am not in the best of places myself. But when I can, I do.  I’ve had two men the past month offer 25 cents for a cigarette.  I smoke these little cigars. I asked them if they would mind a little cigar. They said no, and both times I gave them my pack. Both times, well, such a big smile. Yes they should stop. But I know what it is to have a craving and not have a cigarette. I still have my little group I treat to the $1 hamburgers when I can.  I was walking home one night from the train. A man came out of nowhere. I thought I was about to be mugged. It was one of the group. He walked me home.  There were some “newbies” in the area who had been mugging people. So he wanted to walk me home so they would see him and leave me alone. That happened years ago in another neighborhood. Kindness is returned at times in strange ways.  But appreciated ones.

      People starving in Somalia. My heart sinks. People, however, are starving here. Many of them “newbies” who had lves and sudddenly don’t have lives by no fault of their own who aren’t out mugging people. Many of them scared to death  not knowing if they will survive on the streets. Many of them “99ers” who lost it all finally. I think about them as well as the people in Somalia. And really get angry about the Tea Party.

      Houston is not a place to be homeless.  We’ve had a church sued because of the lines of people waiting for a meal, an organization told they cannot feed the homeless downtown, and now have a restrictive ordinance on panhandling. Out of sight, out of mind. Very sad. But I suspect it is the same everywhere else. We have lost our heart somewhere along the way.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Snooks, “out of sight, out of mind” — doesn’t it remind you of the old Soviet practice of simply banning homeless people from Moscow? Round them all up, truck them out of town. Ta-da! No homeless people!

        By the time I was there in 1999-2000, there were definitely homeless and beggars. Some would bed down in the underground crosswalks at night. On one occasion I saw a man with his dogs while I was on the way to the market; well, I have a soft spot for animals so I got a big bag of dog food as well as some extra people food, and dropped it all off on my way back. Never happier smiles, on the man and the dogs, and the most polite of thank-yous. On another occasion I was leaving a reception and one of the Russians stuffed my briefcase with more fresh fruit than I could ever eat; this, in the dead of winter. So once again, the folks in the underground crosswalk benefited. It’s gratifying to bring someone a little pleasure, however transitory. Isn’t life itself transitory?

        On the other hand – I never handed out a dime in India, because the begging was so overwhelming. Any time I was out – on the sidewalk, in a taxi, anywhere – it seemed I was constantly mobbed by beggars as well as merchants, vendors, would-be guides, whatever. I must have been wearing a sign saying, “ATM.” There was no way to choose and no way to give the least thing to all of them; I would have been impoverished myself in no time, not to mention I would not have progressed one block down the street. Roll up the windows, look straight ahead, la la la la la. Sometimes you can’t realistically offer even a little bit, not directly, anyway.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Baby,
                       If it is that hard to be that homeless in Houston, then maybe it is time to leave Houston. Here, as I assume in many states (including Texas), have a Travelers Assistance Program (TAP): “Travelers Aid International is the association for Travelers Aid agencies and programs in the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, and Australia. Travelers Aid served more than 6.5 million people last year in forty-eight communities, and at thirty-six transportation centers (airports, bus and train stations). Travelers Aid also provided casework services to 200,000 (including homeless persons, and individuals and families in crisis). Each member of the Network is independently managed and provides programs and services that meet the needs of its community.”  Via “The Department of Transistional Assistance”, it is a one time deal. You can only use it once. You can apply and they will tell you step bt step what to do. It can be used for a single person or a family. In Houston, I would start with “The Department of Health and Human Services” –
        8000 North Stadium Drive
        Houston, TX 77054
        (713) 794-9104         * This resource will give you any information that you need to help (pay for) a transistional assistance client on how they can leave Houston to relocate. Since it is not a federal program, the regulations are state by state. Again, they will do it once. Must you be on welfare? Well, to be on welfare here (in Mass) you need to have an address. Living in shelters, waiting to be relocated, is now uncommon. The shelter can be used as an address if you are staying there and have case management) I know it is difficult to just pack up and ,leave but working with a shelter case worker (which I once was)… they will try to find something as close as they can. Usually another major city, that the shelter is informed about (the referring shelter knows that know you are coming). During the winter, many people leave the ice and snow and use this one time service. Now, whether someone believes that their life is going nowhere or under, it is time to find another area. You could be relocated and live the exact same way. My point is that there are agencies (here) that deal with that, I would be interested to know the laws of Texas. I’ve never relocated there. People have moved from Mass (on welfare) to Texas, but they usually have family waiting for them and help with the financial end. There is no reason in Mass to be homeless and/or hungry any day of the week. It is usually people who want those services and stay here too. You can do that if you stay (are living) with someone. The homeless term is: Doubling Up, and you are eligible for homeless services.  People don’t use it because they have their homeless life in order or just do not know about it. There are no billboards with this information on it.

  8. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    About 70% of the population that I work with hustle for money. They seem me downtown and never ask for a cent. I know that they want to buy booze (around a liquor store) or drugs (in a drug induced part of the city). I see every sign possible: Vietnam Vet needs funds, needs to get home, homeless with hungry children, help with gas to get me home, blind and struggling, help me with my diabetes and… believe it or not…. in the middle of a metropolitan city, this can be very successful. These people, in general, do not want to move up in the world. They don’t want to move at all! For every person that I meet I could develop a treatment plan for them and they would never have to go begging for money again. But so many of these people are smart street people and, as I said, some make a very good living at it. They know all the tricks and all of the best locations to panhandle. They actually are very territorial. You do not take someone else’s place….unless they die or move away. It’s a ‘moving up the ladder’ kind of thing, as well…to get the perfect spot that will get you the most money.   You know that they are homeless. Even if they choose not to live in a shelter (especially in the summer), they can get three meals at the shelters that we have here. So many run always head to Los Angeles. A combination of tourists (easy marks) and ideal weather is perfect for this drug and/or alcohol paradise. The younger and where the weather is warm, it is usually a drug addiction. The older and further north that you travel in the USA, it will be alcohol. That is the reality of it. Just like you or I, they are doing their job. And you really aren’t doing anyone any favors by giving them food. Chances are they just finished a meal somewhere else. Your money can be the money that the addict that buys the black coal heroin that kills them. I am a world of system information and have been an outreach worker for many years, off and on, on every subject imaginable. My agency, once, wanted me to go into the bush areas of the city and watch for men having sex with men…and give them a condom and safer sex pre-made package, at 3am in the morning. I was 45 at the time, did it once, and never again. Younger outreachers need to be out there to get the information to these closeted people. I can teach them how to do it, but my time has come and gone regarding all of that. I look too much like a parent or a cop. So, when you are wanting to be philanthropic, be aware that these people already know what to do or where to go to get what they need. If a person who cannot tolerate living on the streets or in a shelter, they’ll start on the ladder up. It usually begins with detox or psych admissions. They need to be drug free and on the right medication before they can move on.  Again, small steps will give you safety. If I feel (my gut), that they are unaware of a service or are just lost…I will bring them to the resource myself. I have called detox’s for many passed out homeless people because, ‘something’ is telling me that they are dying. And I’m listening. There is help for everything out there. That is just not my belief but I live it. If I were to give funds to everyone who asked, I would be broken by the end of the day. At this point, would I feel any better? I doubt it. It’s not about me anyway. Enough of Psychosocial 101. There is more than money that can be more beneficial for than you think and it is a good test of where the money is going.  You are strong to get you to the place you are today… Share some of your strength with them…if they’ll take it. Be some kind of example…if they want to see it.  Living on the streets or in shelters quickly becomes a way of life. A normal lifestyle.  Just like our lives. They can survive and prosper in the underworld and work their way out. We just don’t see it on a day to day basis. There are many wind and loses.  Once they’ve had enough and their bodies are giving out, you can hope that they can get into a program/emergency room in time…or call 911 for them. Helping them get there is the best thing that you can do.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Not everyone who is homeless is on drugs or alcohol or is mentally ill. Not everyone who is homeless has access to shelters. And not all shelters offer three meals a day. Many just suddenly find ng is gone. The care gone long ago. So when the sheriff comes to evict them, they have no way to  Many don’t know where to go. Or to to call. The sheriff doesn’;t give them a “How to Survive” manual. I really do not like this presentation of homelessness as just people who are on drugs or alcohol or are mentally ill.  A growing number are homeless because they simply lost their jobs, their safety net, and then their homes. Many families are becoming homeless. And the children in many cases are taken by CPS. People who don’t know better assume there  are agencies that “help the truly needy.” There are. But they are being overwhelmed and cannot help everyone.  The reality is not the reality some believe. Certainly not the reality the Tea Party would have us believe.

      • avatar Mary says:

        Baby, that is right, no one knows and it is wrong to assume. Unfortunately, just like many situations we see and hear of there are those who profit from those awful situations.  We realy have to rely on nothing but what we can do.  If someone is uncomfortable giving money for whatever their reasons then giving food, and clothing, or directing them by showing them the way to help is what we can do.  Maybe we don’t have money to give, but we do have a kind word.    People are homeless for many many reasons.  Some reasons are not anyones fault and some are, we are not in any position to judge those reasons, but we can only do what we can do. 
        I think Mr. Wow was and is expressing what many of us go through in our minds though when we are put in the position that he was and we all are at some point or another.  I admire the honesty of that and get a chuckle because in the end sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we see it.

        The tea party is dillusional and that is all I’m going to say at this point, but that represents so many people in this country who hang on to whatever they say because they want to believe that what they say is true and they want to find truth somewhere.   That is the danger.  It is easy to talk about belief and religion and to brainwash folks to believe anything, but harder to walk the walk.

        • avatar Richard Bassett says:

          Mary,
          I do not know what you mean by institutions. Do you mean transitional housing, a greater level of a shelter or a psychiatric ward, drug rehabs, what? As an addiction/ dual dx/crisis Counselor, I can tell you that aftercare is just as much of the treatment plan as any other issue. I can only speak from here, but no one is released from a psychiatric ward without a follow-up place to be…and is expecting them to be brought there. Working in a detox, I would contact the Department of Mental Health (if a mental health assessment is needed) and include them in a treatment team but with a psychotic patient leaving the facility, we are not standing at the front door waving good-bye to them. If they are a danger to themselves or others, we can legally keep them for three days. Part of the description of my profession is to arrange aftercare. Maybe a half way house, dry shelter, a sober house, medical intervention, another 30 day program, a long term rehabilitation program,18 months, regarding addiction, a Department of Mental Health single room occupancy unit…one with 24 hour client services, group homes, congregate living,  intensive out-patient group therapy, providing a post detox psychologist and psychiatrist. I DO this while they are in the institution. I said 1% of the homeless just find themselves there one morning. Well, there are steps to take. Talking to one’s doctor will bring you to their own working mental health therapist to assess the problem and create an appropriate treatment plan. This can be done for free in any emergency room. This has to be done with the consent of the client. If they prefer their street life, it is always there….but it isn’t going to do anything positive to their lives. Remember, we are Health Care Professionals…not their father and their mother. And Mary, yes, there can be acute short term homeless situations (a fire), but the homelessness I am talking about is indicative of years. Years of homeless are due to the same causes, mental health and addiction, and not wanting any help…except a detox (for a spin-dry) if they are suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Even then, they are referred to a live-in post-detox program or a live in Transitional Support Service program (30-90 days). If they choose, they leave the institution and go right back to the streets. It is a comfortable environment where everything is familiar. Most times, when the body gives out or a family is threatening to leave the addict for good…they are motivated to stay in treatment. This is not rocket science. It happens to millions of people every day. It is called the ‘ Continuumof Care’. Reintegration into society is the goal. Some need more assistance than others, but I do not see a 50 year old male, making 65,000 a year, entering a public delox. There are private ones…like “The Betty Ford Center” but the cost of that is 32,000 dollars a month. No insurance coverage that would make a dent. The homeless man/woman that you are giving a dime to is far, far away from getting healthy…if that is what he or she wants.
           And vets receive more services than anyone else for the rest of their lives. They are dozens of referrals targeting that population. Compliance is the key.
           

          • avatar Mary says:

            Richard, the ideal discharge is what you are describing.  At the time that I was writing about and in the area that I am writing about sometimes the ideal did happen , sometimes it happened for a little while and sometimes it didn’t happen at all.  It is all great on paper, looks nice, sounds nice, but there was and still are times when things look great that it just doesn’t work because of lack of backup, closing of services and shortages of money and finally because the person involved cannot conform to the “rules” of the outside world.

            I lived close to a very large and one of the oldest Psych hospitals in the nation.  The hospital is still standing but is used for other services.  It is like a huge university campus and in fact was where Cornell University was first planned to be.  If you have ever heard of “Ship of Fools” this is where that term came from.  In the Victorian era people were commited to these hospitals for many many reasons and lots of them were because the people committed did things that were a “embarrasment” to their families.   Stuttering, sleep walking, masturbation, birth defects,  one leg shorter than the other, and anything that was not the norm and you could be put on the ship of fools that would take you across Seneca Lake , N.Y. to Willard Psych Hospital or Hospital of the Insane.  Thousands of people lived there and never left.  There wasn’t a lot of reasons to leave.  They were in a little community and all of their needs were met there.  If you were not psychiatric you became environmentally psychiatric.  That is the fact.  Then there were outcries from the public because numerous numerous news agencies began doing stories about the conditions of these hospitals.  Now rightfully so.  The conditions these folks lived in were often too terrible to even consider but they had been out of sight, out of mind for so long that no one was prepared properly for the affect(s) opeining the doors would mean, not even social workers.  If you were one of these institutionalized people these conditions were what you were used to.  You knew the rules and you knew what you needed to do to survive.  Suddenly the rules are changed and the Do Gooders have come out of the woodwork.  Where were these people when they were needed?

            Even to this day there is a general lack of information out there as to what people need and to those people we are just Do Gooders . 

            I actually wrote my thesis on De Institutionalization.  It contains many pages that I cannot write about here, but the point is that as educated as we are, we are trained to do that care plan, submit it and feel good about it, even if it is not relevant to the person we are writing it for.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Mary,
            First deinstitutionalization comes in stages. If you are truly homeless, you can live and sleep anywhere you wish…if you are not caught, here, as I said, we have a Central Park area, which is the home of most of the homeless, especially in summer. These people know the system, find an address from a relative, and get their welfare, social security income and social security disability….all before age 62 (the retirement age where resources become plentiful). But, those in central park, get their monthly checks, do not pay rent, buy and sell their drugs or remain passed out due to alcohol under some Elm Tree in the park. With an address, you can get an ID Card. A shelter address can get you a State ID card. Due to their low (no) income, all of their medical costs are paid for. Remember, all this information is well known and utilized every month by this population. Where is the motivation to improve their lives? If they are chronically living in a shelter (or jail for twenty years) they are 100% institutionalized and need specific case management (at no cost to them) to integrate them into society. For some, they prefer to be institutionalized because they know all of their needs will be met, and they will have no bills. All of their money belongs to them. Some will go so far as create criminal acts to return to prison, where life is constant day after day. Massachusetts closed many transitional housing programs (where you are free to come and go, but still must hold some independent responsibility), state mental hospitals (everyone was transferred to an intensive outpatient group therapy program and given a room to live in) or half-way houses (now you do not have to be abstinent to stay in each program). They have been taking people living under the Elm Tree and giving them an apartment, and they are always in detox. As I said, they take the street environment into their apartments. They don’t know HOW to live with some freedom. As they never go to see their case manager weekly, the case manager now comes to them…to make sure their apartment isn’t on fire or used as a flop house. That is the reality of the homeless world we live in today. Of course, there are not enough apartments for everyone. The apartments are a revolving door and working in social services just can’t fight this system.
            I don’t know what any of this has to do with an ancient asylum that you are describing. The Do Gooders are the underpaid service staff, case managers, registered nurses, therapists, social workers, counselors and psychiatrists. Usually, psych wards are locked units where you just can’t come and go. The client is given medication and then observed on how it is working, a place to live is being found during this time …usually staffed by the Department of Mental Health and many, many more services available. The difference now is people had supervision while taking advantage of these services. Now, they are placed in a one bedroom or studio apartment. THAT looks good on paper “Boston Homeless are Being Housed”. You are in New York and these provisions are different in every state…except federally funded social security. Here, if you are HIV+….you are eligible for dozens of services. In Montana, I don’t know but there is no place where ‘nothing’ is available…from given gym memberships to dying in a hospice.
            The facilities, here, are inspected by a variety of agencies very frequently. There are no’ Loony bin asylums here that would pass inspection. One last word about the ‘do gooders’. Their salaries are state, city and federally funded which fluxuates as the years go by each passing fiscal year. Every agency needs a superior grant writer.  That is the reality of the situation here. But remember…once in a psych unit, a psychiatrist tells you when you can leave. Leaving AMA does not apply if you are leaving to kill someone or even if your physician believes that is what you will do. A patient advocator is brought in, and, the worse case scenario is that you end up in court. It is up to you and your case manager to come up with an aftercare plan that the psychiatrist will accept. His/her legal reputation is on the line, as well. Malpractice insurance runs very high.

          • avatar Mary says:

            I think that the services that are provided are not universal that you describe.  Also, many agencies, whether state or federally funded can only run as well as those who are directing them to do so.   At the time that I was very involved with homeless issues it was the beginning of massive deinstitutionalization and I was working in housing and developing a single room occupancy program for those who fell through the cracks.  It was a new program and one of the first in NY state.  My umbrella agency was a dual dx agency that was opening a new branch of the agency.  As I was the program developer I did massive amounts of research and grant writing.  Proudly the program opened and is very succesful to this day.  Since that time admittedly there have been massive changes in the “system” most for the better, but there are many programs that still run with the same mentality as the archaic systems and depending on where a person who needs services ends up determines what kind of support and services that person will get.  I am still in touch with many in NY and can tell you that services in NY for those who need them are determined by state budgets and who is in leadership roles.  For example:  If the govenor is more pro Mental Retardation than Mental Health, then Mental Retardation and developmental disabilities is going to get the most in dollars and attention.  The difference in NY vs my current state of Ohio is that the budgets are determined very differently.  In Ohio the budget is determined mostly by Levy votes.  As a result if you are homeless in OHio you are pretty much out of luck for most services.   The services that are available are going to be provided for the most part through private foundations and volunteer agencies with not much oversight.

            In Ohio if I were homeless without children I am going to be low priority for housing and may have about a two year wait or longer.  The most services I am going to get from the state will be food stamps and basic medical only if the medical help i need is approved, meaning I have a heart condition that is proved potentially fatal.  I might get help if I were diabetic with a hx of hospitalization, but that is a big maybe.  Our mental health agencies in this state are in trouble because our budget for them is so very low. Minimal services with prefernce to those who have been hospitalized and everyone else waits.  But, I am not even going to get food stamps if I am homeless because I have to have a place to store and cook food.    So I think services are dependant largely on states and states priorities.

            I can understand reluctance to help with hand outs and how easy it is to become pessimistic and leery, but, I also think that it largely isn’t up to me to determine without fact those who need and hand.  If I have it to give I happily do it however I can. 

            At any rate it sounds like your state is very good with services and I wouldn’t consider moving from your state if I was in the position of needing services.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Thank you Mary, very informative. Good post.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        If you were not mentally ill or addicted to drugs, then why would you be homeless? You could “WORK” for a living or find an apartment that needs roommates. If you are elderly or disabled, there are places SOMEWHERE in the USA where you can get information about that. People usually do not want to give up their drugs/alcohol so most (not all) allow them to stay there. That is a dry shelter and can be asked to leave if you are under the influence. Wet shelters are for those who are still active, but they cannot be admitted to the shelter intoxicated or use (shoot-up) their drugs in the shelter. These shelters, as you can realize, are not the Four Season’s Hotel. They get federal and state funds to be classified as that type of shelter. And there is always housing for vets (providing they are not an addict or mentally ill) If you are homeless, there is a pretty good reason ‘why’ you have gotten so far into that situation. People know months before, that they are going to be homeless. If you can’t pay your rent or if it is too high, talking to your manager….arrange payments, and look for something cheaper that you can afford and “WORK” will help with that. Once you enter the social service system, you are eligible for many things. If you make 85,000 dollars a year…you are not. You got yourself into this mess (unless you are not mentally ill or addicted), so get yourself out of it. That is how people live and move forward. If you are working full time, and can’t afford a ‘room’ to live in…until your finances are better, then there has to be a good reason. No, shelters are filled with addiction and mental illness. Not the lower class with a salary coming in everyweek. And BECAUSE the addicted and mentally ill do not want help, it is their choice. It all has to be their choice. There will be rough patches, but inform your landlord and employers. Do what makes sense. Those without those traits (1%) in a shelter got lost somewhere along the way and need some assistance to find their way back. Many people feel shame because of this…but you must rid your mind of that stigma if you are to move ahead. A man with a paycheck and sips a glass of wine usually does not wake up to find himselve homeless. Again, if not for the addiction and mental illness, you really have to be your own advocate, and ask for help if you do not know about something. There are more than enough professions advocates out there to point you in the right direction. Again, I say a man living with his wife and children under a staircase on the street automatically tells me that something is wrong (it is usually mental illness). As I said in my last post, some prefer the street. It is the kind of life that is familiar to them and they have their hustle down pretty good. Why change?

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          Richard you really should join the Tea Party…

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Hey Baby, I live with this issue everyday of my life….and let’s say what we are REALLY saying. When we give a quarter to a panhandler, we feel pleased with ourselves for this random act of kindness and it becomes all about us as our head hits the pillow. But we play the smallest part of all because we do not know what is done with this quarter. Is this not true? Elizabeth Taylor gave/gives thousands of dollars (believe me, I know) to others who are genuinely loyal and there is never a way of tracing it back to her. That is real giving. The entourage even has no idea. Her personal assistant does not even know but she gives to others. Be humble with your philanthropic gestures. No one care where your quarter came from….and even if they did, your would still not be a hero. In fact, it would deflate the entire act of giving. If THAT is the philosophy of a ‘tea bagger’, that is what I am. I am just reflecting reality.

        • avatar Kathleen K says:

          I never leave comments, but by reading all the comments I can’t seem to restrain myself. Richard obviously works within and knows the system intimately. I too have worked within the system and Richard is 100% correct. For the record Texas has the same issues and benefits as Richard has stated regardless of what Ms. Snooks has to say. As a retired caseworker and investigator employed by Texas, I will go one step further…. any homeless person, especially if you have children, can go to the housing authority in Houston, tell them you are homeless, and within a month or two you go to the head of the line and get housing. And while waiting Star of Hope and other shelters will put a roof over your head until then.
          The homeless here in Houston also contribute tremendously to the Medicare/Medicad fraud. They just love to sell their client numbers to the fraudulent providers for $50 to $100 so the fraudulent provider can make millions off of there numbers. Everyone is happy…the homeless person gets to buy their drug of choice for that moment and the provider gets filthy rich.
          I would like to go back to believing as most of you do, but after working in the streets with the homeless, reality is very much different then the perceptions I am reading here on Wow.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            As a retired caseworker and investigator employed by Texas, I will go one step further…. any homeless person, especially if you have children, can go to the housing authority in Houston, tell them you are homeless, and within a month or two you go to the head of the line and get housing. And while waiting Star of Hope and other shelters will put a roof over your head until then.
            _____________________________________________________________

            That no doubt explains the thousands of people who are not addicts or mentally ill who are homeless in Houston. hings have obviously changed since you retired. One of the homeless I befriended is deaf and on SSD and has not been offered housing by the city. And he has tried.  Maybe it’s because he is not an addict or mentally ill? Or pretending to be mentally ill?  He at least has friends he stays with when it’s too hot or too cold to be outdoors. There are a growing number of “nice, normal” people in this city and all around the country who lose their jobs or their source of income if they’re self-employed and do the best to hang on and suddenly do wake up one morning and realize there is no way to pay the rent even with assistance from an agency and suddenly do wake up one morning and realize the constable will show up later that day and remove their belongings and then remove them. And they will be homeless. And many have nowhere to go. 

            The agencies you used to work with, past tense obviously, are overwhelmed and cannot help everyone. Including those agencies who have HUD housing funds. Many now do not help with evictions until the eviction is filed. Which does not help. Once the individual files a pauper petition to appeal the eviction they are required to put the current month’s rent into what is called a court registry. The agencies give them pledges to the landlord to pay a certain amount if the “remaining” amount is raised by the individual by a certain date. They cannot put pledges in the registry. So many have no way to appeal. And are evicted. And become homeless.

            At least we agree on the fraud. Many need money for food. Not just for drugs or booze.

            Reality is indeed different from what we are reading on here.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

             
            Those who have families cannot be afflicted with mental illness and addiction? Are those conditions used by single people only? Kathleen, a great post, waiting lines are in years in some places. I only know of Massachusetts but there were was a time when AIDS patients were going right to the front of the line…for housing authorities, specific AIDS housing, or units in privately owned management, which had saved a certain number of units for AIDS patients. Everyone was flocking to Massachusetts. Those guidelines have become more main stream as people are living and working being HIV+ much longer. Twenty years ago, they did not have the life living medication that we have today so less are being approved for even being considered for SSI/SSD. Twenty years ago, AIDS patients were dying in 3 years so they really needed housing; you went to the top of the list. Now, HIV+ population are dropping in priority due to higher T cell numbers, no viral load, or are having never ending opportunistic illnesses as part as their overall health and living longer. Yet, peppered into all of this are long term survivors. Having AIDS, twenty years or more and their physicians just call them ‘slow progressors’. They are constantly asked to go into clinic trials to see why they are so different. But we are of the belief that managing AIDS is not making sense and infections are growing.  People think that a pill a day will allow them to live for decades. But now the medication (itself) is twenty years in the body and symptoms, just as life threatening, are starting to occur. Can these people exist on fifty years of being medicated? We think not. Elizabeth Taylor was not condoning this. Her bottom line was a cure and nothing less. It continues to be. To answer Baby, the ETAF will remain client-oriented. It is the basis of her foundation. There are people who volunteer who are not allowing anything but that to happen….so you can sleep soundly tonight. Now amfAR has research, awareness, advocacyand education deal with the rest. (Actually, there are dozens of agencies who are given grants for specific population and client services) amfAR and ETAH are just two. But with the belief that AIDS is manageable, state and federal funding are decreasing. It’s a sorry state and the medications are slow in being developed now. Cancer and Heart Disease have their own realm of advocacy and dozens of agencies are dedicated to them, as well. A difference is now AIDS is a pandemic (affecting people around the world) so outreaching is addressing this, but by no means are things coming to a halt in the USA. Testing is still being encouraged. Thousands are HIV+ and they do not know it, so their partners are at risk also. The issue is still very high up there as a prioritizing topic. Baby, obviously you need to move on from this topic knowing the majority of the homeless (with or without families) are unable to work as they have been deemed disabled. Whether they REALLY are depends on several physician recommendations. Your deaf friend is disabled….you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that. He may be living in shelters or living in subsidized house (where he pays one third of his disability for rent…regardless of the independent housing. The goal of housing is finding Independent Housing) and, of course Baby, you make no sense. I feel as though I am a 12 year practicing lawyer speaking to a first year lawyer student…or less. I’ve worked in this field since 1994, went back to school and consider myself an expert in some of these very familiar issues. I know nothing about banking, fashion, retail sales, jewelry, decorating…etc. Give it up and for those who read these threads, this is a perfect example where one’s opinion and what is reality are wrong and right. I don’t make the laws….I follow them and if they are unfair, we oppose them the appropriate way. I still love you baby but you know crap about the social service world….and end this endless topic.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        99.5% of those who are chronically homeless have mental issue and/or addiction problems. Most are caught but choose this life if they have the system figured out. They can even make money if they are good enough. Unless their is a disaster, people are not homeless. That is just fact. But put money away for a rainy day if you wake up in the trash dumpster…just in case. All shelters serve three means a day. That is part of their funding and shelters do not suddenly close without the clients having somewhere else to go (even if it has to be built) but in most cases, they are non-profits are ferderally funded. Nothing good can come from closing them. In all honesty, they are trying to create more resources to address this population. You do not find out you are going to discover that you will be homeless in one day, so the interventions that are needed are put into place. Does it work 100% of time? No, it happened 99.5% bof the time. We are not living in some obscure Eastern Europe town where these situatutions DO occur. Your post made me smile.

    • avatar Mary says:

      If I were living in LA and saw as much as you are seeing I may feel differently.  Years ago when I was active as a Social worker I was in a major university city where affluence was more the norm, the town was great at having services and hiding homelessness, but , it was there.   At that time there were basically 4 types of people who were homeless. * In the area I was in*  One group was the people who were discharged from institutions with no plan or a plan that wasn’t going to work because there were no supports for them.  Some of these people knew how to survive in a institution but had been there most of their lives and the outside world was foreign to them.  Most people on the outside of the institutions applauded that these people were released from the conditions of the institutions but failed to see the problems for them.  Another group of people were Vets who were suffering from mental disorders like PTSD and distrusted the government and the programs that were available to them.  We met with many of them in their territories and lots of them survived on road kill.  Many docs and nurses volunteered and had to go out in the woods to treat them with meds and first aid etc. because they would not go to the hospitals or clinics in town. They didn’t trust the paperwork.  Then the new face of homelessness was the AIDS folks who didn’t have a home because many of their families turned their backs on their own sons and daughters.  Mostly out of fear for their own health because at that time there was so much ignorance over AIDS and outreach services were overwhelmed.  The other group was those who just didn’t care whether they were homeless or not and always found the services and sometimes abused the services and burned everyone out. 

      It seems to me that every generation has it’s own problems that will see more homeless and abuse in the system.  The “new” homeless today look like they have enough but in reality are barely hanging on.  They don’t know where to go because they never had to worry about it.  But, the agencies who are out there to help deplete their funds rapidly and the providers burn out very quickly. 

  9. avatar Charles Casillo says:

    Good karma is good karma at your kindness will come back to you in some unexpected way!  This is wonderfully “alive” writing that makes me feel like I’m right there with you.  And brought to mind many of the feelings I had today I had at Target where the kid begging outside was half my age with double my pecs and better shoes…(and people were giving him dollar bills)  But this is LA.  Thanks for the trip back to NYC…and for the laugh.  Mr. Wow reminds us we’re not alone.

  10. avatar Joni Evans says:

    I always remember a time in NYC in the early 80s where a 30-year-old, well-dressed woman was standing on a Park Avenue street corner with her two young children in tow. She was looking distressed, pained, panicked and she said to me…”Please, miss, may I have $20? Just give me your address and I’ll mail it back to you. Someone just stole my pocketbook and I have no way to get my babies home to Queens.” She smiled so sweetly and I thought how awful a situation she must be in (her youngest starting to cry) and I immediately searched and gave her $20 and told her there was no reason at all to repay me. I felt great that I could be of help and walked away feeling pleasure.
    About two hours later, after I had completed whatever business I had that day, I came back along the same route and to the very same corner.

    There she was… and there were the kids…!
    and a gentleman was just opening his wallet to do the good deed I had done.

    I can’t imagine what desperation her life must have been in to motivate her to use her own children as props in a scam but it scarred me forever about trusting a beggar.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      We’ve all probably been conned on the sidewalk so to speak but it is important to focus on our giving instead of someone else’s taking. There are some “prrofessionals” who make quite a nice living off of pandhandling. And others who simply need $1 to buy a hamburger. And it is very hard if not impossible to know when we’re approached. Maybe in our “identification society” the truly needy should be “certified” and given “id cards” they can show you when they ask for the $1.  No one is more jaded than I am about it all but when I have it I give it. And sometikmes even when I really don’t have it I give it. There but for the grace of god go all of us. Particularly in these times.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        And not to be irritating, although I obviously do it so well, even the hardcore addicts occasionally really do need $1 for a hamburger. It is true there are places they can “get a meal” but out of curiosity I once went to one of the “free lunch” churches and found myself eating a very disgusting piece of bologna on white bread with mustard and mayonnaise and a bag of much too salty potato chips. At least with the $1 hamburger you get some ketchup in addition to the mustard and mayonnaise and some onions and some lettuce and tomato. So I often will go buy them a hamburger. So far no one has refused it. Says a lot I suspect. Sometimes I will buy them a little salad to go with the hamburger. Sometimes I will buy them two hamburgers. As I said, there but for the grace of god all of us.  And I have nearly gone there once or twice myself.  

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Joni…

      I once almost fell for that one–similar:  “my wallet’s been stolen, I need money to get back home.”  Very convincing.  Very. He was clean-cut and attractive.  I declined to give him money.  I offered to walk him up to the proper ticket window and I’d buy him a ticket, and see him off. 

      His response, “oh, fuck you!” 

      And yes, I saw him  a few days later, using the same routine.  He did have the good grace to look embarassed before he looked away.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Joni, that must be a worldwide sob story. Also in Moscow – was on the Metro one day when a middle-aged couple and their tween child got on. “Dear passengers! We were just in the Kievski train station and were robbed! All of our documents and money! Please help!” The first thing that went through my head was: Then how the hell did they get onto the Metro? The second thing was: Scam! But you should have seen all the concerned faces, and when they walked through the train car, people were handing them all kinds of bills. I never knew for sure but still think that one was a scam.

  11. avatar Rho says:

    I worked in Manhattan, on Madison Ave., around the corner on Fifth Ave. there was a Vietnam vet sitting on the street, begging for money.  Many gave him some, including me.  One day I saw another man, he went and relieved this man, then he sat down to get more money.  That is the last time I gave a beggar any money.

  12. avatar HauntedLady says:

    There’s never any way to know for a certainty if someone is truly in need or running a scam. One does the best one can. I’ve done my time in big cities and now live in the small town where I was born. We have some very serious economic problems here, at local and state levels. Most of the state agencies are completely overwhelmed, and there’s less and less funding for them. Here in town, the churches and various volunteer groups are doing their best. Overall, my thought processes aren’t much different from Mr. W’s. Being retired, I can contribute time and effort and sometimes that can make a difference. At any rate, trying is the best we can do.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      It’s worse in the big cities – the actual percentage of “unemployed” is estimated to be between 15 and 25% and there just simply are not enough jobs.  Where 50 people might have responded to a “help wanted” ad ten years ago, ten years laters 500 people will.

      Quite a few Enron employees found themselves without a job, without a safety net and without a home. One in fact went public about his experience. He is an example of what ther reality of homelessness is all about. It can happen to any of us. And does. He got back on his feet.  But not all do. Many do become mentally ill. And many turn to drugs. And to panhandling.  But that is the result of their being homeless. Not the reason why they are homeless.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

         There are still LGBT kids who run away if they are not accepted in school or home…and feel isolated, especially in the smaller towns. One option is suicide…so thank God that doesn’t happen as much as it could. But even one suicide due to being a LGBT kid is one too many. AIDS and bullying has just made a serious situation more serious. Kids who committ suicide at 15 is a travesty. An entire life that will not be lived. But there are a lot of federal funds (more than in the past few years) that are targeting gay youth by providing a way to connect to each other. More than 10, 20, years ago but the entire gay issues (AIDS, Marriage, Adoption) have only come into light in the past thirty years. Exposure to that orientation is high and a safety net is being provided in each big city. Support and activities are on the rise so I , finally, feel better about that. There are other reasons, as well.
             Baby, I can’t speak about every one’s financial situation but, again, I’ve never encountered a man/woman waking up one morning….with a 75,000 dollar a year salary, to find themselves homeless at the end of the day and hustling next to ‘Burger King” until midnight that same day. I guess I give adults a lot of credit in finding intervention before this scenario takes place. But I am not in finance and cannot speak as an expert but in a dozen years….I’ve never seen it. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, I guess. I believe people need to be pro-active when it comes to their money in a unstable environment.
                 As for therapists working with panhandlers, they do if a mental illness is involved. Hustling for money is not a mental health disorder and if they are at the poverty line (or below) our Mass insurance will cover it so no ‘extra’ money is made by forcing these people into treatment. One may or may not have to do with another. Many panhandlers go home  to their apartments at the end of the day. This is old news, anyway. We are, now, having to deal with harm reduction,….substance abuse treatment centers closing due to lack of funding and keeping people housed at the same time. So being in recovery is no longer a requirement for obtaining housing. Teaching them how to use the drugs/alcohol safely is what is expected and, as expected…it doesn’t work and many are being evicted or their substance abuse providers are coming to ‘them’ to assess safety. But most turn their apartment into the streets verey quickly. As we get rid of our transistional housing, agencies are taking people literally off the street and putting them in an apartment. So, they continue the street life. It’s the life that they know. It isn’t working.

      • avatar HauntedLady says:

        One of my uncles was an aerospace engineer in L.A. for many years. In the early 70s, aerospace took a serious downturn and many people were out of work. The Dept. of Water and Power put an ad in the paper for a meter reader (one opening) and over 1000 people showed up to apply and that was not the only instance of overwhelming response to the chance of a job, any job. A similar thing happened in southeastern Washington at the Hanford site in the 80s. Over 10,000 people were laid off in one day. Having worked in aerospace for 30 years and at the Hanford for 3 years, I know only too well the impact of losing one’s job. I left Hanford when the big layoffs started again in the late 90s. There were huge problems, like domestic abuse, suicide, etc. Some of those people ended up on the streets. I doubt they turned to drugs or alcohol as they had no resources to obtain those things. How to fix the problem? I don’t know and I seriously doubt anyone does, but we can still do the best we can.
        And unemployment here in this county of 25,000 souls is at 25%. It hurts. A lot.

  13. avatar Daniel Sugar says:

    In Beverly Hills they’ve replaced all the winos with wine & cheese-o’s.

  14. avatar Paul Smith says:

    It is no one’s concern whether one begs for food or his addiction.  Both are real needs.  One gives to feel better.  You perhaps get to feel superior and the one who begs does with it whatever he wants.  When someone asked Dr. Johnson why he gives money to a street drunk, Dr. Johnson answered so that he may live to drink another day.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Paul…

      There are very few people to whom I feel superior.  Almost none, in my personal experience. 

      Almost. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        You’ve been homeless. I’ve almost been homeless. It is a horrible experience but it does add a touch of humility, doesn’t it?  Makes us more human. Which makes us less tolerant of those with less-than-tolerant attitudes towards others. You are, again, a jewel…

    • avatar Richard Bassett says:

      Sometimes, Paul,  it is the business of others. Are we not our brothers keeper? If someone is so mentally ill (that in itself can be caused by chronic homelessness)  that they are not aware the life that they are living is not typical, reality is lost. They’ve fallen through all the cracks and are now begging on the streets. This becomes a way of existing and they need a voluntary reality check. We have outreachers, here, who go to the homeless (they merge at Boston Commons, like Central Park in NYC)) and will speak to them one on one. Many do not even know there is another way of living. Homelessness does havoc with your mind, your body, your ego, your dignity and there has to be a way of always knowing that there is help. In the winter, it is below zero here (at times), we have a van than drives around all night throughout the city….forcing the homeless in as they are so cold, there mental health is being effected….and the booze. We bring them to the shelters and they sleep on the floor. Hundreds of them in every shelter. If the sun is up after breakfast the following day, they have to go. Hopefully someone got the message. Here, people are forced out of the shelters at 9am and cannot return to the shelter, except for lunch, until 5pm…for dinner and the night. Most shelters work this way but when it is below zero, I have personally brought people to shelters by car or public transportation. Hypothermia can set in much too quickly.

      • avatar Paul Smith says:

        I have encountered numerous homeless hustlers and hooligans. Most were criminals, or criminals in training. How the halo came to hang over their heads is another mystery. I still contend people throw coins to soothe their own conflicts or seek advantages. Your passion for your work does interest me though.

        • avatar HauntedLady says:

          Richard, I commend you for your effort. I would never be able to do what you do without turning into a puddle of blubbering slop. Even if no one else says so, thanks for the tryinh.
          Paul, you are one cold-hearted, narrow-minded, unfeeling s.o.b.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Thank you. I do it so someone may live life with two hands, arms and two legs, feet, 10 fingers and ten toes. Once the body temperature goes lows enough, you do not feel the cold and are just groggy…so, you fall asleep. That is when people die. When it is way below freezing here, the over flow of the homeless are brought to church basements, senior centers, other agencies, even hospital basements. No one can stay out in that cold ,20 degrees or lower so it takes several volunteers to help move the homeless. Most do not want to go but they are so weak and disoriented from the cold, they give in. If they still will not go, you contact the police and then the homeless really have no choice but to go to an alernative site or even jail. Somehow, this gets through to them. There will still be homeless as the temperature rises but that is not the purpose of this sweep. I doubt very northern cities are very different but who, in an arttempt to get away from the freezing cold themselves, stops to even notices the situation. As I once did, I just thought someone was being arrested….when, really, their lives are being saved, Now, I do it. The homeless are not hard to see. There is a Frey song of the same theme; “How to Save a Life?” In a way, it speaks to this situation. Not in the story but the point of the song.

    • avatar Chris Glass` says:

      I can never feel superior to another human being. What many people of means forget is that some people are just a few paychecks away from being homeless. Those of us able to have an education and paid for homes are not superior we were either born into a family with money or simply able to stay employed so we could save to provide for ourselves.

      We lived in Natchez Mississippi for a few years when the oil industry laid off thousands of workers. Those people had no other training or resources to find other jobs right away. A lot of the hourly people laid off had gone straight from school to the oil fields because of the high pay rates. Those laid off lost not only pay but health benefits. Any illness or injury caused them to rack up more debt.

      The same thing happened in the state we are living in now with the textile industries sending jobs overseas. Generations of families had worked for the same companies before they closed. They had no other skills until they could apply for state assistance. The lucky workers had families willing to take them in. Others lived in campgrounds or shelters until they could retain or find work. Some are still homeless.

      Let’s not forget people who lose everything to unexpected illness or high medical bills because they have to spend all their assets to qualify for assistance. Sometimes the lines between those have and those who have not is very thin.

      • avatar Richard Bassett says:

        Free Medical Services in Natchez, Mississippi:

        Adams County Family Health Center
        145 Homochitto St.
        Natchez, MS 39120-3906
        (601) 442-4864

        Jefferson Comphrehensive Health Center
        225 Community Drive
        Fayette, MS 39069
        (601) 786-3475 x20

        For Case Management/ legal representation:

        Natchez Social Security Administration
        110 Lower Woodville Rd
        Natchez, MS 39120-4432
        (601) 442-3724
        Toll-Free:  1-800-772-1213.

        These center have access to free Social Security Legal Representation that include Transistional Assistance and long/short term disability and social security income benefits. Of course, if it is an illness that is your issues, you will need an: IME, independent medical examenation…and if you have records from your own doctor, that will be helpful. So far, you have spent nothing and you’ve already gone through your employers health assistance program, currently employed or laid off. My point is, you are not left hanging. You may need to be a little assertive in asking what you need…but eventually your case will be reveiwed. Here, while deciding, people are given welfare (150 dollars every two weeks, it is incredibly lower but higher compared to nothing. Depending on your family size, you will be given food stamps (free food) for the month. If you are recently laid off, you can file (and will get unemloyment with health benefits). You may have to sell your house (the most drastic cases) and take a loss but, better you do this before loosing your home. That is what an attorney if for. In my own opinion, you can buy another house but you can’t buy another family. You can also be represented by a social security disability lawyer if you reside in Washington, Vidalia, Sibley, Ferriday and surrounding areas. Your needs will be met. This is just one part of my job, Chris. No one will have to live under a staircase…….ever. Your wants and what you are eligible for may differ but we can’t get everything we want, right away. No one’s life comes to an end and youmay have to start from scratch in some area’s.

        • avatar Baby Snooks says:

          You can be represented by a disability lawyer? The only way to get disability in this country at this point  is by hiring a disability lawyer. And it takes months. So even if you live in a state that offers temporary assistance, at some point, well, there will be no assistance. While you wait and wait and wait for another appeal hearing on your application for disability.  And being unemployed in itself is not a disability. And it is also not a guarantee of being eligible for unemployment. Many “contract employees” find they are not eligible as are many “salaried employees” who discover they were “terminated for just cause” rather than “laid-off” as they believed.

          You seem to believe that there is assistance for everyone. There is not. And you seem to believe that it is “1,2,3” for those who do qualitfy for assistance. It is not.

          Worse you are giving the impression that there is assistance for everyone and so those who end up homeless must be mentally ill or on drugs. That simply is not the reality.

          • avatar HauntedLady says:

            I was salaried and forced to say I quit when I was laid off. My former employer tried to block my unemployment benefits. It took 6 months, during which my only income was food stamps, but I won and got my unemployment. Too often people don’t know they can fight and get what they are supposed to have, or they don’t know what’s available. In some areas, you can get disability without a lawyer. My cousin did, more than once, in California. I think it varies a lot from one place to another.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            ………..forced to say, HauntedLady…………….? To who?

          • avatar HauntedLady says:

            To Baby and anyone who feels that they can’t get any where with the various agencies established to help. I know it’s frustrating, on both sides, but persistence will pay off. In some places, you do need a lawyer to get disability; in others, you don’t.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Commenting on your last statement, MANY people get SSI (Social Security Income) based on addiction and being mentally ill. Call ANY department in any state and they will give you guidelines as for each state. You need a disability to apply for any social security program. There are different requirements but I am talking in general but by no means do I mean the entire USA. Though I could find out in 5 minutes. Of course some people are denied the first time, unless you have an acute medical condition that is permanent or life threatening. There are two programs, the funds that are delegated for Social Security Income. And those who receive Social Security Disability…which you pay into from your employment check every week that you have worked in your entire life. Again, that is federal. SSD is determined by how much money you made in your life…how much you paid into. If you worked 40 years opposed to 5 years before becoming disabled, you are going to get a much larger check than one who worked 5 years. In fact, his disability benefits may be so low….he will also be placed on Social Security Income to bring his benefits up to 640 dollars a month. That is the maximum amount he can make on SSI. So he will get two smaller checks at the beginning of the month. There is also a class of people who fall into the middle. Too low for disability (or do not have one at all) and have made enough to bring your SSI up past the 640 dollars. You are expected to go back to work, because your monthly income is so low ,or live on that tiny amount of money every month…no matter how long it takes, you’ll have an income of no less than 640 a month coming to you. You are more involved with your SSI Case manager, who refers you to another agency who keeps track of how you are trying to obtain employment.  Without a disability, you cannot get SSI or SSD. Mental Health and Addiction fall under this category. The goal is to conquer or manage these conditions and go back to a 20 to 40 hours a week job. SSI falls under this category. Are you sober? What means are you using? Are you working with the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services? If not, why? This can go on for years. Mental illness falls under this category, as well. With a mental health disability, it is unlikely that you worked for thirty years and are qualified enough to apply for SSD, which would raise your monthly income. You will ALSO be working with the Department of Mental Health, you may be in the SSI -SSD window forever. Now, with disability…it is more your choice to return to work. Here in Mass, you can make 1000 a month and remain on SSD but the guidelines are different. You have to have a disability, of course….and here is where you will be denied. You physician, their physicians and an independent physician must assess (examine) you. There was a time when SSD was easier to get than it is now. It is more difficult. So, you contest the judgment and return with a disability lawyer, who will send you to a disability physician. Here is where the welfare comes in. You are given 300 dollars a month as you are challenging your judgment. The lawyers know if you will win or not, long before the contesting in court happens and that will determine if they take your case or not. If you apply for disability in Feb.2011, and are denied in May 2011, contest it immediately are approved in October 2011….your check will be retroactive check since the first day of the first time you applied for disability. If you are awarded 950 a month…your first check will be for 2,250 dollars…and this is considered LOW!!!!!! It is not uncommon for SSD checks to be 1975 a month.  Here is where everyone takes a chunk (basically the lawyer) but you’ll be getting 950 a month. Still low, but that’s it. Your case is reviewed every ten years. If you want to go back to work (your choice), you need to work nine months (not consecutive necessarily and make any amount of money per month and a three month grace period (at any amount a month). During this period you can make 1800 to a million dollars a month and still get your SSD (950) a month. All must be reported to the Department of Social Security and your disability ends…but your case will always remain opened. SSI works a bit differently, if you go back to work…it must be reported every week and you SSI will deduct your earnings from your check, but not the same amount as you are making….a lower number. There baby, take it from someone who does this everyday…that is the system. Some areas are more complicated but I’m not going into that here. It would be a book. It IS a book. And this is not a 1,2,3 process. It was at once time. Not being unemployed is not a disability so don’t expect to get it. You’ll go on welfare, like everyone else waiting for their day in court and exist on 300 dollars a month and 1100 dollars worth of food stamps. A bit more than you thought baby. It is just as hard to get off of social security as it is to be on it and you have to ask yourself. Is it worth it? I love ya Baby and someday we may find something that you actually do know something about but I’m not holding my breath.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            A few corrections (God, I wish we could edit!!)

            1. Mental Health and Addiction are determined to be disabilities.

            2. Too low for disability (or not have one at all): then you are unable to apply for social security.

            3. Being unemployed is not a disabilty. You are unable to apply for SSI/SSD

            4. In Mass, we have a division of the Department of Mental Health called Mass Mental. They are in charge of client services.

          • avatar Baby Snooks says:

            I worked with non-profits for 25 years including many community  organizations that “navigated” the system for clients and I am well aware of the reality and the reality is that it is not as simple as you  believe, and would have others believe, that it is. Unless of course you’re an addict who decides that becoming “mentally ill” is a “sure thing” for getting disability which in most cases it is.  And feeds the addictions. And is probably the major fraud committed in the entitlement programs. Enabled by quite a few who believe they “deserve” to be taken care of while they deal with their addictions.  When in fact they are just feeding it while feeding off the taxpayers.

          • avatar Richard Bassett says:

            Baby, no one said it was easy? Who said that this was an easy process? It is a general process (I’m describing) and, of course, not everyone who applies gets there benefits but YOU WILL NOT GET DISABILITY UNLESS THE DISABILITY LAWYER KNOWS THAT YOU ARE GOING TO WIN because you do not pay him if you lose. So, you WON’T lose. What is in it for him? He knows that you have no money if you are applying for SSI/SSD and he isn’t going to take a chance, and spend hours on your case…only to end up with nothing. Personal Injury lawyers work the EXACT same way. After 25 years, you don’t know this????? Addiction and mental illness are just two of the hundreds of reasons to apply for benefits. But feeding off the taxpayers?: Welfare (transitional assistance) and Social Security Income is coming universally from the tax payer. If you work from 16 to 65, that’s 50 years of YOU are paying into disability every paycheck that you get. You, a taxpayer…not everybody else! And disability can be for life, and rises after age 62. That is why it is so difficult to obtain. How can you write your last post after everything I’ve just told you. Have you been denied disability? (That may be too personal of a question, I’m sorry) but get with the program and stop babbling about topics that you have no idea of how they function.

        • avatar Chris Glass` says:

          We were not among those affected at the time as we worked for a different industry in the 80’s. During that time I volunteered with an adult literacy program. Without reading skills some of those laid off couldn’t fill out a job application for any work. We made it a point to tell them about programs they were eligible for but it was up to them to apply. In the years right after downsizing American oil workers the social services were overwhelmed not just in Natchez but in Vidalia and Ferriday, LA. I am still in touch with old friends and the situation has improved for those who know how to seek help. Some families were suspicious of government help as they thought social services might take their children from them.

  15. avatar Charles Casillo says:

    Good karma is good karma at your kindness will come back to you in some unexpected way!  This is wonderfully “alive” writing that makes me feel like I’m right there with you.  And brought to mind many of the feelings I had today I had at Target where the kid begging outside was half my age with double my pecs and better shoes…(and people were giving him dollar bills)  But this is LA.  Thanks for the trip back to NYC…and for the laugh.  I love this!  Mr. Wow reminds us we’re not alone.

  16. avatar Jody says:

    Mr. Wow,

    I am enchanted by your tale. I have walked (and trotted) a mile in your shoes and completely understand what it’s like when trying to do something ‘good’ like this. I find it refreshing to read your honest thoughts and actions here.

    I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!

    PS: I wonder how good that turkey sandwich tastes for $11.00. Isn’t there just even a little piece of you wondering???

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Jody…

      I wondered myself.  And so tomorrow I am going to have eleven dollars and buy that turkey sandwich for dinner!

      Weather is hot and humid and wet in NYC, but I am having a pleasant weekend, thank you!

  17. avatar isa says:

    What a great story Mr Wow.  You are a nice guy, despite yourself…Sometime in the late eighties at the Lex Av subway station in NYC there was often a disheveled pregnant looking woman who was begging for money.  One day, my very kind hearted and generous then boyfriend, a student at the time, and now husband reached into his pocket and was about to give her the only $2 he had.  I suddenly shouted at him, “you are poor!”, grabbed the money from him and put it back into his pocket.

  18. avatar Sandy B says:

    There are so many people in genuine need these days and while I don’t care to finance anyone’s cigarettes and booze- I don’t mind buying them a meal. I carry around Subway cards. I understand you can get McDonalds meal cards as well. And I always think “there but for the grace of God go I”. It really could happen to anyone with the right set of circumstances.

    And Mr. Wow- I had almost the exact same thing happen to me. Felt guilty for brushing someone off- then bought them a sandwich. Couldn’t find them but did find their little pile of stuff they had hidden around the corner of a building. I left it there and hope they got it alright.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Sandy…

      I suppose if I’d run into another needy-looking person I’d have handed over my slice.  But the PA is pretty cleaned up these days.  They don’t allow the loitering of Mr. Wow’s misspent youth. 

      I couldn’t let it go to waste.  And it turned out to be awfully tasty.

      • avatar Sandy B says:

        If the one I’d bought had been an 11$ sandwich I might have been more reluctant to risk leaving it behind!

  19. avatar macwoof woof says:

    i have always appreciated your honesty mr. wow.

  20. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    I usually carry a small bills in a side pocket of my purse to give if someone needy asks. I am wary of professional panhandlers. I’ve been taken by a few of them. In these difficult economic times former working people are reduced to asking for help. I always remember the phrase “What ever you do the the least of me you do unto me” and I try to give. We really don’t know who is asking. I do like the idea of carrying food cards and plan to buy some. Sandy’s suggestion is a good one.

    • avatar Sandy B says:

      Thanks Chris. I actually picked up the idea online- but I pass it on when I have the opportunity. It makes it easier for some of us to give- who have become too cynical- like me!

  21. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    I always look forward to everything you write for us! At the end of it “it’s the thought that counts”. I also love you honesty, but I think you are way to hard on yourself.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Deirdre…

      Thank you!  B. says I am too hard on myself, but I am nothing if not a a steaming pot of low self-esteem. 

      And though I’d rather be more confident, I’d hate to be too confident.  I know myself.

  22. avatar D C says:

    I attended my daughter’s college graduation Saturday morning.  I remember thinking, while they were crossing the dais and shaking hands and getting the rolled up diploma tube, that the Social Work graduates must feel they are in a very strange place.  Here in a country where a new presidential candidate says that Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional, but he can’t answer what, exactly the constitutional writers were talking about when they wrote that the government should provide for the common welfare…. How confusing it must be for these new kids who want to go out into the world and make it a better place without being concerned about the size of their paychecks, where they are now considered by more and more people to be downright UNAmerican!  Do-gooders are looked down on more and more.  Just ask Paul 

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear DC….

      Let’s not ask Paul.  Though I feel he is fighting his better nature, somehow. 

      I would sit and drink with him and I bet we’d get along.
      Maybe I am just optimistic.

  23. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Thanks for the story Mr. Wow. I feel so connected to you. I have those running conversations with myself in my head also. I am awfully critical of myself sometimes. Probably too much. I retired from voluntary fund-raising when politics got all involved in the HIV/AIDS fervor. I raised a million dollars though. And founded a crisis hot line in the very red region of Bryan/College Station in Texas. I came out of retirement when a very good friend decided to “out” herself and accept a board position on a breast cancer assistance charity. I missed it, it seems. I carry cold water bottles in my auto along with dollar bills. It has been over 60 days in my city with the temperatures over 100 degrees. I give a bottle of water and a dollar to the folks standing at the intersections in the unbearable heat. Glad they can have the water. Don’t care if they use the dollar for a hamburger or something else. Freedom is indeed another word for nothing left to lose.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Thank you Count S. and Miss Joplin!
      My in-my-head conversations never lead me to a good place about myself, but then I always feel there is so much room for improvement. 
      I understand the resistance to AIDS fundraising when it became so political.  I gave to ETAF because it was an umbrella foundation that distributed funds in a fair manner.
      Keep carrying the water.
       
       
       

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I worry about ETAF  becoming “political” with regard to its funding policies and can only hope it doesn’t – she really was “hands-on” about who got funded and who didn’t. Few people know it but Leona Helmsley was the same way and sent quite a few $25,000 checks to small organizations that in many cases did far more for people than the organizations that got the $250,000 checks. She, like Elizabeth Taylor, asked around as they say. She wasn’t interested in buying the executive director a new BMW. About ten years after I first raised the issue Elizabeth Taylor gave an inteview and commented she didn’t understand all the million dollar salaries at amfAR. I never did.  And still don’t.

  24. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    PS: I really, REALLY want that pizza in the pic ! ! !

  25. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I feel that if you treat people the way you want to be treated, finding isolated incidents in life of providing for others becomes a non-issue, and life has it’s own rewards. Last night I helped a lady at work and did not think anything of it. A few minutes later, she returned with a gift certifcate for the restaurant she manages and said thank you.

    If someone needs something I can provide, they are welcome to it – material items can be replaced. Even some change or a few dollars probably I can recoup from easier than the person who is asking. Just give without expectations, you never know the true value you are giving in relation to the person who is recieving. Just do it.

  26. avatar wilowist says:

    You are an inspiration, Mr. Wow>