You’ve seen him before: the homeless guy at the highway off-ramp holding a cardboard sign, panhandling. As he walks down the row of cars, you avoid eye contact at all costs out of fear he might approach your window. You look straight ahead and hope he doesn’t see you, hope the light turns green soon.
I’ll admit, I’ve done the same thing, and I was homeless myself just 14 years ago.
The next time you find yourself in this situation, I’d like you to remember Tony.
Tony is an off-ramp panhandler. He lost his job and he openly admits he struggles with a drug addiction. I’ve talked to Tony maybe half a dozen times, and each time he was sober. Any formerly homeless addict will tell you that it is not easy to live without a home and stay sober.
Tony admits that panhandling off a freeway exit is humiliating. He knows he’s capable of doing more with his life. But given the economy and his personal struggles, he feels it is his only option.