The other day I noticed someone throwing something at a homeless guy standing at one of our intersections near the freeway. The homeless guy had a sign (I didn’t see it to read it) And no, it wasn’t cash thrown – it was trash. I’m confused. I thought OBcians were tolerant and caring people. So, my question: just when is it safe to give money to the homeless at these intersections?
We in OB have had a lot of discussion about the homeless (haven’t you noticed?) lately. And we’ve all seen these folks standing near the freeway. Usually it’s men, but occasionally it’s a woman. Many are vets – up to a quarter of all homeless are vets, so if an old grizzled guy holding up a hand-written sign says he’s a vet, probably is. But hey, even the vets are dissed in Point Loma, and many of the passersby are from other parts of the Peninsula than Ocean Beach. So, I could just slough it all off, and say the person throwing the trash wasn’t from OB – but I’d be lying.
Over the course of much of last year, the OB Rag and the community at large, as I was saying, has been involved in a “discussion” about the homeless. And this so-called discussion has opened up fissures in the OB glacier of coolness and hipness and has exposed – much to our chagrin – an ugly, icy canyon of resentment towards the homeless (but just the “bad” homeless – we still love our “good” homeless).
As you ponder your response to the next homeless person, remember that we are still in the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some would say to themselves, ‘there but for the grace of god, go I.” Some others wonder why is that young guy asking for a handout. He’s young enough to go out and work for a living, isn’t he? But hey, there are no jobs out there! Even for young, able-bodied men.
Some of those who wish to climb out of this steep crevice, counter by actually feeding the homeless through church-sponsored or condoned food-lines. Others say, don’t give them cash, go out and actually buy them some food, so they won’t spend your hard, earned money on booze, cigarettes, or worst – toiletry items.
Many OBcians do hand money to these guys – or else why would they keep coming back and suffering through the harassment of a few? But, whatever you do, don’t ignore them. Look them in the eye, smile even – they are human – despite rumors to the contrary spun by a certain OB surf shop. And if you have some extra change, hand it over as a good-will gesture.
What I do, is to acknowledge their presence. And if they ask for something, I simply tell them I’m unemployed – which is true. But I save spare change in the little holders in my console, and once in awhile, I will hand it out. But if you do that, be careful, your human side might be showing.