Looking back at Jimbo‘s “Don’t feed the bears” post and all the comments, I’ll have to agree with him on some level. Just to clear up one thing, I don’t think all or most homeless panhandlers are the source of crime. However an environment where people just have cash money burning in their pockets to give away make an attractive environment for people who want to rob those people.
As mentioned in a previous post, my homeless policy is not to give away money. Food, tokens, and other objects, yes. Cash, no. Of course it helps that I don’t carry cash on me. I’m plastic. Cash and me have a problem. Cash constantly whispers to me and begs to be spent on stupid stuff. I have found that it is better for me not to have any cash on me for the sake of my bank account.
I have taken friends to task on giving to panhandlers. I sneer “white guilt”, because of the racial dynamic, the panhandler is usually black and my friend or associate is white. It disgusts me on a certain level. (channeling Malcom X) As a people we cannot be truly free and equal if we are begging the White Man for anything. Another racial/gender dynamic, I tend not to get bothered by the panhandlers for money. They know I, or possibly any other black woman (I can’t speak for men) won’t dig in our bag for them. I do get bothered for bus transfers by various types. Come to think of it, homeless women are more apt to approach me, but not men.
Ah, you heartless person you, you may think.
No. I give on a very regular basis to charities that actually help the homeless. I won’t go believing the lie some folks tell themselves that their measly $5 they give to the guy begging is gonna actually help. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help them get off the streets. It doesn’t help them seek out the resources they need. It doesn’t help the less visible homeless who do work, or the homeless families, or the non-panhandling set of homeless. So out of my paycheck, a portion goes to support N Street Village and Bread for the City also I know a portion of my church tithes go to support Arlington, VA and DC homeless shelter and feeding efforts. I encourage you, yes, you. Yeah, you reading this blog. To regularly support your local homeless shelter. And don’t give my any lame-O excuses either, if you had $5 or more to give to the bum on the street you have $5 keep a shelter open or support a soup kitchen. Oh, but you just want to make someone happy? And you wanted the instant gratification of someone who seems worse off than you to say thank you for your $5? I sneer at you. This is me sneering. sneeeeeeer.
If you do give, I take back the sneer. Delete, delete, delete. G-d bless you.
Back to crime.
A heavy panhandling population, not to be confused with the plain old homeless that aren’t paying you no mind, seems to signal there is a money source. Tourists and suits who feel guilty, want that instant gratification of giving. Ummm. Yeah. People wandering around with cold hard cash in their pockets. People wandering around with cold hard cash in their pockets and unaware of their surroundings. People wandering around with cold hard cash in their pockets, unaware of their surroundings, at night/ when the area is deserted. Crime.
2 thoughts on “Homelessness & Crime”
Great blog. It’s interesting to watch the changes in “transitional” neighborhoods. I really like and agree with your post about panhandling. Giving money to panhandlers only helps them buy the drugs and alcohol that are keeping them on the street. I witnessed this firsthand in San Francisco. Better to volunteer or give money to charity.
I think that you’re wrong on several fronts.
First, I think that Malcolm X was a big proponent of the rights regime. He tried to sue the US for human rights violations, one of which is the freedom of speech, expression, and assembly. And while he did have a disgust for any form of begging (let’s not distinguish our begging white people for jobs for our panhandling brothers and sisters, see Malcolm’s sit-in, stand-up speech), it was on an individual level that he employed this philosophy. In other words he had a two-pronged approach, 1) force the government to grant and enforce the rights of all Americans, and 2) reform the individual. I think that you are applying his personal development ideas in the context of a system of rights violations, which is fair to the levels of analysis that Malcolm X employed.
Second, while you knock the instant gratification of giving, there is a study, I believe by Harvard psychologists, that found that the giver, the receiver, and any observers of a kind act all experience elevated seratonin(sp?) levels, the brain chemical that is associated with happiness.
And finally about the purchases of the panhandlers. So what if they by some liquor? When we have a tough day, sometimes we like to unwind with a drink. Well, imagine how tough of a day it is when you got no money and no place to sleep. I think empathy is in order no matter which way you decide to donate.
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