Jan 13, 2008

Homeless? Heartless.

I am so fargin' pissed right now, so let this serve as a warning. This will not be pretty or PC. Not by a long shot. Skip this and go watch a bird moonwalk.

When younger and idealistic, brimming with do-gooder energy, our family would take in the homeless from time to time. We eventually learned not to. It was never a physical danger situation, although that was a concern, but it was a certainly a psychological dilemma, and possibly an invitation to legal jeopardy depending on the habits that led a person to become homeless, i.e., drugs. Those were the good old days. I'll revisit legal jeopardy in a minute or ten.

Good times.

I don't care if you believe in evil or not, I'm not sure I did, either, but I had a demon-possessed woman in my home, once. Scare your ass straight. I never gave such a thing much thought until voices, contorted features, and even an invisible, physical shove coming straight from her mouth made me a believer. Not science-fiction, folks. It was easily remedied, however, by an assertion of authority, "NOT in MY house!" And all the little horrors would leave her for a while. And we would cry and hurt for her, and help her and do all we could.

She was so sweet, and smart, and able to work when she was challenged by us to behave and to assert her own authority and self-control. But, she really needed help, so we helped her. We helped her right to the local homeless shelter after she started sliding back into her familiar familiars. She needed help, but not at the expense of our peaceful home. That is sovereign.

Unwed pregnant homeless idiot? Yeah, we took in that one, too. Didn't tell us she was preggers. Didn't tell us she'd had an abortion, nor did the doctor even tell us days later when we went to the emergency room to see her after she started to bleed profusely while at her job. Only later did we find out. She was perfectly healthy again, but didn't want to work. We were young, we believed the best. But, she wasn't homeless, she was freeloading, saving her boyfriend the trouble of bringing her to his place, gee, I wonder why? How incredulous she was when we packed her belongings and dropped her at the weekly hotel flop-house. Too bad she never told us she was only seventeen years old. Found out later that she had faked her license to show she was twenty-one and had been living on the streets for years, apparently. Sad, but not gonna be my problem after you lie to me and jeopardize my home and your own life.

And then there was a family member... that was the truly dangerous one. Sigh.

And so it went. We worked with a local homeless shelter and met all sorts of folks with one thing in common: rebellious, proud, stupid ideas about the world. Maybe one out of 20 was truly a basket case or sob story--oh hell, they were all sob stories--but the rest were healthy, well-fed, resourceful and smart.

And living just the sort of life they wanted. No strings, play the scam, scam the Christians in the suburbs, and the liberals in the government, hold a sign up at the intersection, do ANYthing but work and take on responsibility.

Able-bodied men would drag some stupid cow of a woman and her kids around the country with him, playing the scam, and living free. You helpfully set him up with a job? He's caught stealing. Caught lying. Called in sick. Don't show. Moved on to the next little town.

If someone needs help, and you ask them where their family or friends are, the story will be so similar as to be common currency among the modern hobo set. They have scripts they memorize. You don't know this, because you've only ever met one or two in your life.

There's a reason they're not on welfare, not seeking government help, drifting. I'd venture that there's more government money for the truly unfortunate than the truly unfortunate could use up. The scammers and "Homeless Vet, God Bless" cardboard sign set sleeping under the overpasses are happier than you know. Well, maybe not happy, but they are satisfied. And they fight for their territory, so lucrative is the gig.

Legal jeopardy, the new price of compassion.

Dear reader, DO NOT take any hazy "homeless" situation as the gospel truth. For every true need out there, you have a hundred pikers standing in line to freeload off of your white middle-class liberal guilt. Or your Christian gullibility. Or the media's incurious sensationalism about their so-called plight. Maybe in some other country, but not here. Not when unemployment is at 4%.

But here's the kicker: if you take them in, they belong to you. Here in Florida, if you try to send them packing, they'll call the cops on you. Then, Good Samaritan, you get to be a captive in your own home, unable to leave for fear of a theft or reprisal for attempting to send them packing. This just happened this morning to someone close to us. They tried to kick out the long-time freeloader of the past several months. The meth-headed druggie refused to leave and called the cops. The cops say, "she stays, or you go to jail for unlawful eviction of a tenant."

She stays, and her benefactor, who never charged her one dime or took one cent from her, has absolutely no right to insist upon her exit. Who voted for that law? Raise your hand and I'm gonna come over there and kick your ass right out of your Sinecure. Heh.

But, somehow, this poor frightened doe of a "tenant," after being made to feel extremely uncomfortable in her happy "home" today, has found friends who would take her in. A couple of gangsta bruthas showed up and hauled her and her shopping bags away. Amazing. Hopefully, that will be the end of it and no retribution will be exacted on her gracious, and now rueful, hosts.

It happens more often than you know. It's a pretty ballsy scheme. You'd think that just accepting a bit of disciplined responsibility would be far easier. It's not, apparently.

But what about...

Don't give me any anecdotal evidence to the contrary of my experience, because I'll delete it. I'd wager that I've heard more about the plight of the homeless than you've ever heard about the darker truth of the situation, so shut up and let me drive this blog post, thank you.

The obvious exceptions are simply, and unfortunately just that: exceptions to the rule. The truth is that there is an entire underclass of people who live the life they do because they choose it every day when they wake up, free from any care except to wonder from where they can steal, cajole or fool their next meal, and anything above that is fine, as long as they don't have to listen to someone encourage them, or preach at them, or expect anything like gratitude in return.

So, you know, no tears for the professionally homeless. Have pity on them at your peril.


Kim said...

Interestingly this resembles gypsies, doesn't it? Way back in Kansas, of all places, when I was a claims adjuster, we had to pay property claims for a particular family-renown in the region. Gypsies. They'd stage auto accidents, be robbed, etc. etc. However, nothing as seemingly "innocuous" as importuning on some unsuspecting real person. What a scary litany of weirdness you've described.

Joan of Argghh! said...

I was hoping it would be scary. If it makes just one bleeding-heart honest person think twice, it'll have been worth the half-day I've spent on it.

You have no idea of the fear and outrage and anger I was feeling this morning.

Mark said...

Thanks for this, Joan. Parallels my experiences with a lot of people in recovery. We used to let newcomers "couch it". That stopped early on for the reasons you mention.

I was appalled, on two counts, by the news that the Smarts of Utah, a wealthy family, were using such people to work on their house. First by the fact that they were so stupid as to put their children in direct jeopardy and second that they were using the "homeless" as cheap labor.

The media seemed to gloss over the obvious and paint them as "saints" (pun intended) who were victims of a deranged man and not of their own stupidity.

julie said...

One of my first art teachers in college used to run a shop in New York. Every day on the way to work he was accosted by panhandlers, and every day he told them he'd give them no money, but if they showed up where he worked he'd give them a job. Over the course of a decade or so (if I recall), he never had a single taker.

As to the meth heads, druggies and voluntarily homeless, I've been related to a couple. The worst thing you can do is to actually try to help them; all you end up doing is helping yourself into a nightmare. It's better to save your charity for those who will truly use it to better their lives (did that for my little brother, and I'll never regret it) than for those who are happy to live as emotional and financial vampires.

Jean said...


And, have you noticed that Florida gets an influx of 'em in the winter? Whole 'nother class of snowbirds.

Randy said...

I work for a private charity and we work with many you describe and I'm always counseling our volunteers not to get personally involved as it will usually turn out badly.
They never listen and they always learn the hard way. It's like every volunteer is a teenager. They always know better and never listen to those who have been through it before.
I pray your friend is rid of these leeches.

Peggy U said...

The county sheriff once told me that some homeless people have a communication network, and that they tend to settle in areas where jails are overcrowded. There's less chance of winding up behind bars for lesser offenses when jail space is limited. Snowbirds? Yes, they may very well be. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammed were two of the homeless that camped out in our fair city at one time and lived at the homeless shelter. I hear they liked to travel around.

Talking of well-meant but idiotic ideas, a few years back county Democrats proposed providing public showers and toilets for the homeless, to keep the sidewalks downtown more sanitary. Fortunately, this did not come to pass. I can easily see a public facility like that becoming a hangout for drug dealers, as well as a maintenance problem. Talk about attractive nuisances!

I do sometimes donate to a mental health organization that reaches homeless people. There are some with mental disorders who do not function well enough to provide for themselves, and who may themselves be victims of predatory homeless people.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Good grief! How many other folks have done this, and what are the odds that so many readers of my blog have had a similar experience?


Mark said...

I'll venture to say that homelessness is , in part, a cottage industry that is based on guilt. It is easy for many to assuage their guilt by giving someone with a sign a buck.

I don't. I refuse to subsidize their alcoholism and drug addiction.

We have, on occasion, bought food for someone who didn't ASK for it but obviously needed it. And it is gratefully received.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks for that honest and very well written warning, Joan!

I recall, a few years ago, a news station in Seattle (KIRO 7) actually reporting on those "poor" homeless people with the signs (and a puppy or kitten to sweeten the pot).

Most of the ones that claimed to be Veterans were not.
Several are child molesters, fresh outta prison, who never should've been parolled in the first place.
And, as you mentioned, the druggies, freeloaders, con men, and yes, the possessed.

The reporter said that most of these freeloaders were haulin' in anywhere from 200-400 bucks a day.

And it seems we all have family members who fall into these categories.
I have a brother thats a druggie, and he's not welcome in my home.
I learnt my lesson, and I hope everyone who reads your post takes your warning to heart.

Never invite evil into your home. Period.
And don't feel guilty about not "helping" those who won't help themselves, but will drain your very life if they could.

Hammer said...

Your experiences mirror mine. Free money and the kindness of gullible strangers makes for ripe and easy pickings.

LauraB said...

Here in Austin, there is a beggar on every corner. Or the Mystery Bucket people who are ingenius enough to get a Kinkos laminate pasted on a bucket to look "legit".

I recall a long while back in Atlanta the news looked into the "regulars" and found that they lived quite comfortably. When they are gone for a few weeks from their corner? On vacation. That wheelchair? Hefted into the back of the van parked not far away at the end of the day.

There is a sucker born every minute. And some never learn.

pamibe said...

My youngest step-daughter is a professional homeless person, and though she's been 'clean' for 3 years, the old habits, they die HARD.

She vanished from our lovely home one day during her 16th year and never looked back. From time to time she'd let us know where she was, but would never come back to live with us, preferring to live on the street.

At 30 she is still the same as she was at 16; she never grew up.

There are people who feel they deserve the street, and deserve others pity. Scam artists, druggies, the possessed.

I'm fairly sick of it. As you said, they give the real homeless a bad name.
Get a job, get an apartment and do it like the rest of us.

You could write a book, Joan, but I could pen the addendum. ;)

Teresa said...

I hope that now the "person" is out of their house, your friends are currently changing all the locks!!! If not, call them and have them do it NOW!

When I was very young my father told me the story of some "poor" people who lived in his town. He said, they didn't have anything and everyone felt sorry for them, as they lived in a shack in terrible squalor (this would be back in the early 1930's so there wasn't welfare). The entire community pitched in and built a little house for them and got them out of their shack - got them food and clothes... etc. Six months later - they were living in squalor. Moral of story - people don't respect anything that is "given" to them. Make them work for it.

Another friend of mine would get hit up by beggars on the street in Chicago. They'd whine about needing money for food. He would offer to take them right over to the nearest fast food place and buy them a meal - none of them wanted the food - they wanted the cash. *sigh*

I don't even look at beggars on the street. Sadly that's the worst part for those who truly need help - I don't ever even reach for my wallet, except to hold on to it tighter.

Stacy said...

Every time I see some sucker give money to a "homeless" poster artist on the side of the street I grind a little more enamel off my molars. The only thing we can do is instruct our kids to not be so *#$#@*&^$ gullible.

Peggy U said...

The only thing we can do is instruct our kids to not be so *#$#@*&^$ gullible.

Our daughter got the perfect lesson in this. Every summer there is a chalk art festival downtown, and every year we participate in it. Last year, a young homeless woman was approaching people, asking for cash, saying she was starving. So, my daughter and I went and bought some sandwiches for lunch and picked up a couple extra for the hungry woman circling our corner. Of course, when we offered them to her, she didn't want them saying they weren't enough to feed her and her children for a week. "How about if we give you some groceries then?" I asked. This was met with an emphatic "NO!" - it was cash or nothing! And that's what she got - nothing. But we each had an extra sandwich and a pretty good lunch!

NICKEL said...

Having lived in Florida for many years I am more than familiar with the so called homeless. I have contended for years that the vast majority are homeless out of choice.

'mouse said...

Perhaps surprisingly, I'm right with you on this one. Sorry for your friend's hassle and sorry for your half-day (and more) of raised blood pressure. While it seems so counter-intuitive and mean-spirited to hear the message "don't help" it really is a message that reflects a sad reality.

Been there / done that with the crazy lady taken in who wouldn't leave. Luckily those were simpler times and eventually she was removed by the police.

Last week I drove by the back side of the guy on my local highway off-ramp sign-duty and saw he had a nicer-than-mine mountain bike stashed behind the bushes. Grrrrrr.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Not surprising a bit, 'mouse. I know you gotta heart as big as a lion.

My little town, however, wants to elevate the homeless to demi-god status and feed them daily in the ancient town square.

They'll never leave. *sigh*

Peggy U said...

My little town, however, wants to elevate the homeless to demi-god status and feed them daily in the ancient town square.

They'll never leave. *sigh*

Not only will they NOT leave, this will attract more of them!!! Same argument I have against providing toilets and showers for them.

nonny said...

"Here in Florida, if you try to send them packing, they'll call the cops on you. Then, Good Samaritan, you get to be a captive in your own home"

Ooh my God thank God we don't have that here I'd never be rid of my older brother, yep family are the worst of the homeless. I have no time for people that don't work and pay their way. No time at all.

Anonymous said...

I know this post is old but I just wanted to add my story. I know someone who has become homeless due to mental illness. I have offered to give the person a place to stay and get back on her feet. Her family doesn't give a crap about her although they are good "Christians". Yeah some day her whole family will burn in hell. Anyway she won't get help for her illness and only wants help under her rules. Needless to say unless someone will take the help and improve their lives then the hell with it. There are alot of homeless that like living on the streets. To that I say let them rot there. There is help for most that want it but they won't take it.