Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?

Since the beginnings of civilization society has had those individuals who for one reason or another find it necessary to ask—beg—for help from those more capable of making their way in life. They have always been with us. During hard economic times even more so. They make us uncomfortable and we’d rather they be invisible so we don’t have to think about them. We pass laws against panhandling as though we can outlaw homelessness and poverty. Tacoma has tried it with the result that the beggars came to Gig Harbor. Gig Harbor prefers to keep those things invisible or on the other side of the Narrows Bridge.

Up until recently there have been three or four individuals (never more than two at one time) standing at the intersection of Pt. Fosdick and Olympic Drives holding signs asking for help. Since the appearance of an article on the phenomenon in the Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor’s weekly newspaper, they have disappeared. Did they all get jobs? Were they all run out of town on a rail? Are they in the bushes behind Safeway where homeless people, some of them Tacoma ex-gang members, have lived for several years?

I don’t have a problem with panhandlers or beggars. It reminds me that we are not doing enough to care for each other. If I’m not the one driving and we are stopped at the intersection I will give them a $5 bill. No one need feel obliged to give money to these people, but our family firmly believes that there are people for whom it is just impossible to hold a job. Most of us would not even want to attempt to employ them. Does this mean that they just deserve to starve or die from the elements? I don’t think so. The fact that people are in a position where begging has become their only option speaks to our failure as a society to care for our own. The way we outlaw poverty is to provide support for these people not pass laws that attempt to make them invisible.


Grandma L said...

You know I just never opened up my mind to it that way. You're right. If we wouldn't hire them, they probably need a little help more than ever. Some people are just totally helpless. If it were our son or daughter we would hope somebody would help them.

Irene said...

I agree, Stephanie. Homelessness and poverty is frequently a topic of discussion in my English classes. I'm always surprised by the prevailing attitude that "most" panhandlers/homeless people have "chosen" to live that way. What's really scary to me is how easy can be to suddenly find oneself homeless in this country. "Most of us" are only a few lost paychecks away from the street ourselves.

Stephanie Frieze said...

It would be grand if we had a place for everyone to be warm, dry and fed regardless of ability to work, but as long as we as people believe that people "choose" not to work society will choose not to help them.