Why I Support Regulating the Public Feeding of Homeless People

Several years ago in Atlanta, Georgia I met a woman living under a bridge that completely changed my life and how I viewed homeless services. You didn’t have to be a social service worker or medical professional to see that Angela was dying underneath that bridge. Meeting Angela broke my heart but it was what happened behind the scenes that changed me. I was with a group of Christians. I turned to them and I asked, “What are you doing for her? How are you helping Angela?” They responded that they were bringing her sandwiches – that’s when I realized that sandwiches are not enough. People need housing, jobs, and health services.

See, until I met Angela underneath the bridge that day, I thought that whatever you could do to help a homeless person, well, just do it. Let’s just say the level of your support was making chocolate chip cookies. If you can make cookies, then go and make cookies and then hand them out to people. I used to think that was good enough. The reason I use a chocolate chip cookie reference is because I used to know a mom and her daughter that made cookies, because that’s all they can afford. They would then go to a local homeless shelter and hand them out. And that’s the point. Instead of randomly giving away food in a park, this mother and daughter team went to the local shelter with their homemade cookies, supporting the local shelter in helping people.

I once spent two hours In Tompkins Square Park in the East Village of New York City. During those two hours, five churches came and fed the same people. I am guessing that if I stayed most the afternoon over twenty churches would have come and fed the same people that day. Interesting enough, the Bowery Rescue Mission is right around the corner. If all of those churches had taken their food to the Bowery Rescue Mission (also the same Jesus) the Bowery Rescue Mission could have saved on their food budget and spent the money saved on housing, jobs, and health services.

I realize it’s not as sexy to stand up in front of the church folk on Sunday morning saying that you “helped another organization” rather than saying “you fed the lost.” But the truth is, if churches would simply coordinate and work with other organizations, together we’d make a serious impact in fighting homelessness and getting people off the streets.

I will be point blank honest – public feedings often do more harm than good. Yes, it makes the person giving the food feel especially good, and there is merit in that; we should feel good about our charitable works. But public feedings do very little to end homelessness. In fact, in many ways public feedings maintain homelessness.

When I was producing a weekly TV show on homelessness, we were featuring a ministry that fed people under a bridge. We met a large homeless man with an established camp under a bridge to interview. The man’s name was “Bear”, and he had clearly been there for quite some time. He had a few tents and the camp layout was setup rather nicely. After I got the video gear ready and Bear’s dog to be quiet, I started to ask him questions. The optimum goal I needed was for this man to talk about how he’d go hungry if this ministry didn’t bring him food. I asked “So Bear, if Billy didn’t bring you food what would happen to you? Bear’s response shocked me. He said, “Well, the nuns bring me breakfast every day, and those guys in the warehouse over there give me a burrito at lunch.” You just had to look at Bear to see he wasn’t going hungry and now, out of his own mouth, he told us proof that we were enabling him (and others) to remain homeless.

Now please realize that I understand that there are lots of people going hungry in this great country of ours. I get that. The point that I am trying to make is that just feeding people in a park can actually hurt homeless people more than it helps them. Food is a powerful motivator. Many homeless services provide food, mail services, showers and laundry, which are touch point services so our homeless friends can visit and connect with us on a regular basis. Often we can begin to establish relationships that will help that person get out of homelessness. In addition, our homeless friends often have medical needs that go unattended. By having to connect with a homeless services agency every so often, if a homeless person is hurt, a case manager can help that person connect to needed services. Like with Bear, when people are merely given food in the park, there is little motivation for them to connect with places that can help. It’s actually OK to feed people in a park as long as you’re also taking tangible actions to help them get out of homelessness.

Restaurant Cleanliness: BMuch of my work is based on the belief that homeless people should be treated like everyone else. We are all people! I can’t speak for your community, but here in Los Angeles, restaurants are graded. Often you’ll see a big ‘A’ in a window and occasionally a ‘B’. The rating lets consumers know the food is healthy and prepared using sanitary conditions. For me, it’s important that the food I buy in a grocery store is inspected. Heck, even that hotdog vendor on the street has to be licensed and inspected to sell food. But there is no regulation on public feeding to homeless people – and there should be!

Whenever a community tries to pass laws to govern or ban public feeding, all the homeless advocates come out and scream about how such a ban would be wrong. However, if they really had the best interest of everyone, they would support public feeding regulations. Seriously, it’s a heath and public safety issue! In St Louis, years ago, I heard about a few college kids going around putting feces in sandwiches and giving them out to homeless people. As sick as that is, at the time, public feeding was not regulated so there were no laws to stop such abuse. Many faith based groups receive food donations after the food is expired and cannot be legally sold. Much of the food is still fine, but churches often do not have the proper storage facilities, so the donated food quickly gets worse. If public feeding is not regulated, then anyone can feed anything to our homelessness friends. To me, that is simply unacceptable.

I have also watched churches leave public parks in a complete mess, with trash everywhere. Often times faith based groups will pull up in their vans and open the doors to feed people. The areas that the feedings take place become trashed quickly. And let’s be very real here – homeless people will congregate where there are public feedings. As a formerly homeless person and someone who has given their life to help homeless people, I don’t want to be panhandled when I am walking through a park – and neither do you! I’d honestly love to see the people who are so strongly advocating for keeping public feedings unregulated to simply invite all our homeless friends over to their house to eat. But the truth is that they don’t want our friends in their neighborhoods – just in yours!

NOW PLEASE HEAR ME! I am not asking everyone to not feed hungry people. What I am saying is that we should also coordinate with other services to form a community effort to help get people out of homelessness. The agency where I work has “guest chefs” come in every night to cook meals. It is a ‘win-win situation’ as the guest chef gets to interconnect with homeless people and also do good works , while our agency also saves the funds they would have spent on food to instead spend on helping people find housing, jobs, and health services. There are many opportunities like this where working as a team with a local homeless service provider, your donations and time could have the greatest impact.

Perhaps the biggest need for food that often goes completely overlooked is found in low income or no income people that are housed. If your church, Rotary Club, or Girl Scout Troop wants to feed people and really make a difference, connect with a local organization that is housing people. Once a person is housed, they have very little money for food. These days I have seen a huge increase of people who are not homeless that have taken up panhandling simply because they do not have enough money to get by. If a person is on disability after they pay rent, they are often left with a few hundred dollars for utilities, bus passes, clothes, food and everything else. It’s never enough and food is what’s usually skimped on. This really is probably the biggest crisis of food insecurity in the United States.

I will never agree with any law that discriminates against anyone for any reason. But when it comes to public safety, I support regulating public feedings. We all want our food healthy and inspected; well, it should be the same for our homeless friends too.

If you’re feeding people randomly in a park, I challenge you to think differently and start networking with others in your community. Your efforts should go to helping people have a better life and not inadvertently maintaining homelessness. It is fine to feed people in a park as long as you are also doing something to get them out of that park!

 

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kikidahlke Kiki Coll Dahlke

    I don’t completely agree with the author’s view that
    regulating the public feeding of the homeless is necessary to ultimately help
    this population, nor do I agree that one’s level of service must be of certain
    standard, declared by the author, in order to do good.  Though I agree with points made regarding
    working more closely as a community with agencies/organizations specific to
    homeless services, to make a wider, more efficient impact on said problems, it
    does not warrant the dismissal of those offering “immediate need” service, like
    handing out a meal. They do not need to work against each other, as the author
    suggest. Of course, the bigger picture is to make this population self–sufficient, but
    regulating or banning public feeding will most likely have little to no effect
    on accomplishing this goal.

    For the author to suggest that the food servers
    are “enablers” is to suggest that lack of
    motivation is the primary enforcer of homelessness, not socioeconomic status,
    drug/alcohol addiction, mental illness, or human trafficking, none of which are
    mentioned. We need to ask our government why over 50% of the population on Los
    Angeles’ Skid Row are Veterans?  Veterans
    from WWII to Afghanistan, released from duty and forgotten.  Why are the mentally ill neglected and wandering
    the city streets?  Why has the United
    States spent billions on the “war on drugs” while the streets are littered with
    homeless addicts?

    What the author fails to recognize or give credit
    to is the idea that when individuals look into the eyes of another individual
    and hand them a meal or offer conversation we begin to humanize the problem. We
    begin to see that person not as a homeless person, but just as a person. We
    need to hear the stories, feel their journey, see the reality; we must be
    willing to get our hands dirty. This will be the motivation to do more. The problems
    of the homeless are neither new nor uncomplicated.  Just another point of view.

    Mother Teresa 
    …“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with
    great love.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/kikidahlke Kiki Coll Dahlke

    I don’t completely agree with the author’s view that
    regulating the public feeding of the homeless is necessary to ultimately help
    this population, nor do I agree that one’s level of service must be of certain
    standard, declared by the author, in order to do good.  Though I agree with points made regarding
    working more closely as a community with agencies/organizations specific to
    homeless services, to make a wider, more efficient impact on said problems, it
    does not warrant the dismissal of those offering “immediate need” service, like
    handing out a meal. They do not need to work against each other, as the author
    suggest. Of course, the bigger picture is to make this population self–sufficient, but
    regulating or banning public feeding will most likely have little to no effect
    on accomplishing this goal.

    For the author to suggest that the food servers
    are “enablers” is to suggest that lack of
    motivation is the primary enforcer of homelessness, not socioeconomic status,
    drug/alcohol addiction, mental illness, or human trafficking, none of which are
    mentioned. We need to ask our government why over 50% of the population on Los
    Angeles’ Skid Row are Veterans?  Veterans
    from WWII to Afghanistan, released from duty and forgotten.  Why are the mentally ill neglected and wandering
    the city streets?  Why has the United
    States spent billions on the “war on drugs” while the streets are littered with
    homeless addicts?

    What the author fails to recognize or give credit
    to is the idea that when individuals look into the eyes of another individual
    and hand them a meal or offer conversation we begin to humanize the problem. We
    begin to see that person not as a homeless person, but just as a person. We
    need to hear the stories, feel their journey, see the reality; we must be
    willing to get our hands dirty. This will be the motivation to do more. The problems
    of the homeless are neither new nor uncomplicated.  Just another point of view.

    Mother Teresa 
    …“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with
    great love.”

  • David Noel

    Kiki said it much better than I could. The word “enabler” is a mean word in some ways. Most times when this word comes up, something bad is about to happen.

  • b2blog

    Taken to a slightly more granular level, this is also a problem with pan-handling. Is the guy I hand a buck to taking in $200 a day, or $20? Is his proximity to a tourist trap a sign of cunning, or a sign of desperation? What will they use the money for? If we could donate to a group supporting him, and it would be distributed in some fair way, in your example, Mark.

  • http://hardlynormal.com hardlynormal

     Hi,

    The cure for panhandling is getting people off the streets. I really don’t think about the revenue someone is making because on the average it’s very small. I mean, those that make large amounts, and I am sure there are some, and normally cons and not even homeless. The homeless people I know make very little and if they have a good day at least can get into a hotel.

    That all said, you’re right. I encourage people to donate to support services first. But there are times when I meet a person and break open my wallet.

    I have never liked the model of installing coin meters in areas. In Atlanta I heard people call them “bum meters” 

  • Isaiah 55

    Ok… so let me enlighten you my friend.
     With all due respect, yer debate: “public” feeding vs supporting feeding stations, is mostly mute to someone whose been homeless. I would like for you to consider that what you consider a hopeful nation where funds are not embezzled and horded, by over funded govt. ran community svcs, but that actually make a difference,, well, to me is like not facing the truth.  I have learned to give based on the Bible story where the savior said give to all who ask. Give because He instructed us to. I don’t need any other justification.  It’s not about my personal feelings.  It’s about obedience and gaining divine understanding of the nature of God. Acting noble in any other way doesn’t get it!  Personal giving needs to practiced and practiced until it becomes a pleasure, yep  I give for that reason alone.  I don’t necessarily care if they sleep in a park or on a bench.  I never yell at homeless man,”Get a job you bum!” or the likes. I have taken them 1 at a time and helped them  and learned from them.  Some of their experiences,, well reality is more fascinating then fiction. Please  let’s give to all who ask, and see what the Lord may impart to us,, a golden apple that never tarnishes.

  • blip_blip

    Doesn’t this article erroneously assume that given the chance, all homeless people want to re-engage with the system, and that they are just ‘down on their luck’.

    All the homeless people I’ve worked with are there because they have a great deal of trouble with fitting into the system, or getting on with other people – and a shelter or mission is just an extension of those things.

    Public feeding allows them to stay outside anyone else’s system. The help they should be getting is with mental health, but given it’s barbaric practices of ‘containment by drugging’ I don’t blame anyone for wanting to avoid it.

  • William Tarbush

    I have little confidence in public inspections or the need to get people off the streets when many don’t want to be off the streets. Panhandling isn’t cured by ending homelessess. Poverty and Panhandling go hand in hand but don’t preclude homelessness. Here, in Tucson, many panhandle around their houses but they are poor. Not homeless.

  • None

    Ah.. bullocks.  I purposely avoid giving to organizations like the Salvation Army and other “help” groups. I give directly to the homeless on the street, money, food, a beer, whatever I have. Typically what I see in these organizations is a lot of nannying, control freaking and bullying of the homeless and I do not feel that I need a middle man to distribute my alms to the poor. Good day sir. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiley.j.clark.7 Kiley Jon Clark

    We have been working within homeless communities for over seven years now…and I know that you are one hundred percent “Right ON!” about what you are saying.

    http://www.hmpstreetdharma.org/

  • Terri

    You are an asshole! Saying that feeding the homeless keeps them homeless? Seriously? Have you no compassion for people? What if you were homeless by a twist of fate? Wouldn’t you want someone to offer you a meal no matter where it came from? Feelings don’t contribute to homelessness… Mental health, financial duress and other circustances does. Maybe people feed Bear but maybe Bear doesn’t have the capacity to work to feed himself. Maybe if he were your brother you’d show sympathy but you just show ignorance & judgement. Enjoy your time in hell.

  • Guest1

    I don’t think it’s appropriate or constructive to polarize the issue, as this essay seems to do (feeding vs. multi-faceted assistance through organizations). I don’t think we can focus on either as a zero-sum proposition. And why the common theme of criticism against churches? There are plenty of secular organizations that focus on feeding as well. At least the church recognizes and addresses the spiritual component of the physical condition. I’ve seen change more often occur from the inside out.

    I’m familiar with the work of The Bowery Mission and some churches. It’s not the sandwich and short burst of sustenance that’s as important as the eye contact, the conversation, the human touch, and the words spoken (and unspoken) that change is possible. I’ve seen it and I’ve participated in it. I met numerous men who said it was the eye contact, the sandwich served with a smile and the genuine interest in their lives and potential that sparked the desire to change. Many of these grassroots feeding groups get to know the people they serve, their stories, their family situation and more. Perhaps more of these grassroots and faith-based groups can combine forces with larger organizations that have the capacity to address the diverse needs of homeless men, women and families. Many churches and stand-alone organizations already do.

    I think feeding, alone, is wrong if it perpetuates dependence on sustenance apart from addressing real and lasting change. But I think feeding can play an important role…when it’s integrated with the work of organizations that offer more than meals.

    To use a cliche, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. I sense a tendency among some social scientists to direct great time and energy to systemic strategies to end homelessness. Some, I’m sorry to day, get caught up in their “research-based strategies” and forget about the humanity and the dignity of the individuals they’re purporting to help. They call them “outputs” that aggregate to population-wide outcomes when particular resources are inserted at points in their developmental path. I find that de-humanizing.

    Offering regular soup and sandwiches at a feeding program that treats the homeless as individuals — but doesn’t address the deeper condition and the numerous contributing factors to homelessness, or offer a path to restoration, is JUST AS WRONG. Strategic organizations and grassroots efforts need to combine forces. Many of them do. I’m not aware of programs that parachute into an area to feed the homeless and then pick up and leave leave.That’s not right. But churches have been on the forefront of social justice, care and healing for ages. I hope we can encourage this type of work and perhaps begin some new forms of partnership. The problem is so complex and entrenched that solutiona are going to require collective effort.

  • PRAXIS#313

    Thanks for another perspective. I’ll keep feeding people I see on the roadside but now I’ll collaborate with existing organizations. Peace and success to us all.

  • In a quantry

    So last week a homeless man was sitting in front of my grocery store with a red suitcase, saying he had just run out of food stamps, and asking for help. It was in fact the end of the month. So I gave him $5.00. Now, six days later and the 3rd of the month, he’s sitting in front of another store in the same strip mall, begging me again. I feel really guilty because I just lost it. I am 67 years old and still working full time and have been working for 43 years. So, I said to him “I just gave you $5.00 don’t you remember?” and he said “Well, I’m still homeless.” And I said “I’m still working at the ripe old age of 67″ thinking but not saying “why don’t you try it.” He was approximately 40, dirty and fat. Why do I feel guilty? But for the grace of God go I. But just looking at him doing absolutely nothing to help himself, I got terribly angry. What has our society come to?

  • Jennifer Nodine

    I don’t think the author polarized anything. While I hate hearing that the lawmakers are making charity a crime & interfering with volunteers who are trying to provide free assistance to people in need, I understand that there are some underlying reasons that are worth consideration & discussion. First, I think it’s somewhat presumptuous & condescending for people of privilege to show up and play “petting zoo” with other, less fortunate people. And there’s also a safety issue here that isn’t being discussed. It’s scary to think that any sicko can just head downtown w/ a cooler full of tainted food & wipe out the homeless population in one shot, anonymously. Or that someone with good intentions can do the same thing accidentally by being unaware of safe food handling practices. Besides, being charitable is about much more than feeling warm and fuzzy for a good deed while you drive back to the safety & comfort of your home. It’s about really doing for someone what you’d do for a good friend who needs help. Building interpersonal relationships within the community could be a big springboard for the homeless who became socially isolated at some point for one reason or another. We also should stop assuming that every homeless person yearns to find a place to live inside four walls. Not all of them do. Instead of everyone deciding what’s best for this segment of the population, why don’t we communicate with each of them personally and assist them in defining & achieving their own goals? We all know the saying about the value of teaching a man a fish instead of just giving him one. It’s not so complicated, really.

  • Streetwyze Religion

    There is really only one thing that is going to put a dent in the current problem: Jobs. Daily, paying work available to anyone who wants it. Unfortunately, no one seems to want to hear that. Apparently giving people regular, paying work without strings attached or making them jump through hoops is against some unspoken law in this country. You cannot feed this problem away. We have shelters, food stamps and free clinics, but that doesn’t address the need for an income. No one is going to get on their feet without an income. Stop asking for resumes. Many of these people don’t have solid work histories or references. I’ll say it one more time : Daily, paying work for anyone who wants it. That is the most important ingredient and it is missing in most areas of this country.

  • Streetwyze Religion

    Did you try offering him a job?

  • Steven Skelton

    You just seem like a control freak to me. You want to control the homeless people with food. If they don’t do what you want, then they don’t get their food.

  • Colorado’s Homeless

    If you looked further into this blog, you would know that this man has dedicated his life to helping the homeless. By a “twist of fate” he was indeed homeless and now is more or less voicing the truths of homeless people of the nation. I don’t believe he was trying to insult anyone or force a view or judgement on anyone. I see you have, like countless other commenters, jumped to a conclusion based on the way you have read and analyzed this posting. In the future if you want to provide feedback that someone will listen to and accept its helps to avoid insulting the writer, and damning them.
    Sincerely
    Read the warning at the top of every page.

  • Angela Carlson

    I am ten. This year for Christmas my family has very little money so we won’t be getting very many presents. I’ve made a decision that I’m going to go to a homeless shelter and give half of my clothes, toys, and food to the people there

  • http://hardlynormal.com hardlynormal

    Angela,

    Your comment touched my heart. THANK YOU! You are AWESOME!

  • http://www.amandamichellejones.com Amanda Michelle Jones

    A question: how do you know he was ‘doing absolutely nothing to help himself’? Based on your comment, I don’t think you shadowed him for six days, but perhaps there’s something else I’m missing.

    Also: you do realize $5 doesn’t even buy a full meal at McDonald’s, right? Food stamps are not distributed on the same date for all people. Perhaps his re-up date is the middle of the month. A homeless person can’t buy groceries – they have no place to store them. Furthermore, the SNAP program doesn’t allow recipients to buy hot foods (or many other prepared foods). So homeless folks have to buy things like chips, Lunchables, and other packaged, non-perishable goods. This makes it a LOT harder to stretch food stamps over the month.

    Like Streetwyze said, if you’re truly concerned about how unfair it is for you to be 67 & working, while a ‘dirty and fat’ 40 year-old begs you for $5, try letting go of shaming the man & help him get a job. Of course, you might want to also let him use your address because he can’t get his job paperwork done without one. Then there’s also the matter of helping him with showers, work clothes, and a place to store his things while he’s at work… What role(s) are you willing to play in this matter?

  • http://www.jeffreydavidmorris.com/ www.jeffreydavidmorris.com

    Your ten? Angela. Huh, please I wish those whom think they know, regardless of free will, 1st amendment, because they can, would not speak – what they don’t know; they disrespect other’s and more so disrespect themselves; but hey, if they can like with themselves, so be it then. Ugh!

  • Davis Rivas

    That’s the point. If I don’t get a job, I can’t pay my bills. Oh wait, I can just sit home, stay on welfare, and let other people support me instead. There is a difference between enabling and helping. There is a reason why the liberal state of CA has an exploding homeless and welfare population in recent years.

  • Davis Rivas

    How are you gonna get everyone jobs when CA is overflow with low skill illegals. Population increases faster than job creation, thanks to the generous welfare system that enable people to have tons of kids they can’t afford. In CA, welfare pays better than minimum wage, so why would anyone want to work.

  • Davis Rivas

    He was doing something alright. He was begging. That was his job, LoL. Pan-handing is a very lucrative business.

  • Davis Rivas

    Did you even read the blog? And yes, feeding homeless does keep them homeless. You don’t see the homeless population decreased do you? In fact, homeless and welfare population have exploded over the years. So, whatever God work you think you are doing, it’s NOT working.

  • Earl

    Hello Everyone

    I am curious to know what your opinion of this video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paGt_wL1iqs

  • Carbide

    THE BUDDHIST MONK IS GOING TO HELL UNLESS HE TRUSTS IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND THE BUDDHIST MONK IS LEADING PEOPLE TO THE LAKE OF FIRE. IT IS “NICE” WHEN ANYONE HELPS OTHERS AND THAT IS GOOD TO DO BUT WE DO NOT COMPROMISE WITH FALSE RELIGIONS IN THE NAME OF HELPING PEOPLE. THAT IS HOW THE DEVIL WILL BRING IN THE ONE WORLD RELIGION!

  • Giggly-goo-gitty

    You. >>

  • Lucky

    I think most people overlook the reason these people became homeless in the first place. The disposable employee model of modern corporate business. It is the biggest disease and cancer on America to ever exist. Here is a better thought. Lets make these businesses who fired these people so willy-nilly foot the bill for their care. Maybe then we would have real jobs back in America rather than these scam jobs we have now. Work in America has become cut throat scam artistry.

  • Cris1982

    I am one of the many people that feeds the homeless. If I see a person with a sign asking for money, I don’t give them money instead I buy them something to drink or something to eat. A lot of the homeless people are homeless because their own families don’t help them and didn’t help them. When your own family doesn’t care for you, that messes you up mentally and emotionally. For some of them it’s hard to trust that a stranger or strangers can help them get back on their feet when their own family members didn’t try to do anything for them. It’s not that they don’t want the help or that they like being homeless because they know someone is going to feed them. They are depressed! They’ve given up on the life they once had, the life they use to know. They feel worthless!
    They don’t have cars, money or cell phones to get to homeless shelters. Where I live the shelters that are around are all first come first serve. They can only eat dinner, shower if they like and go to bed. As soon as it’s daylight and 7:00am, they have to be out of there until the night comes again. The only place they feel they can hang out at is the park or under a bridge. Why the park? Because they can use the restroom or drink water from the faucets. For some of them these shelters or homes are too far to be walking to back and forth everyday. That’s why they find a spot under a bridge or at the park and make it their home. There is also a waiting list for housing. It’s not easy for them to live on the street they just make the most out of what they have, and what do they have?… Nothing!
    My boyfriend was homeless. He was living the street life. Slept behind a dumpster of a circle k. He was laid off work and at that time he was renting the back house of his parents home. Well he was told if he wasn’t working within 2 weeks he had to move out. Those 2 weeks came, still unemployed and he got kicked out. He was living in his car but since he had no income, he couldn’t make his car payments and the finance company had to repo his car. Now he was really on the street. His mom gave him a cell phone the day he got kicked out and told him she would continue paying it because she wanted to make sure he wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere!! Who says that!?! Anyways… He went into a really bad depression, none of his family members offered him help and he was to the point of committing suicide because of how unloved and alone he felt from his family’s neglect.
    I knew him from high school and at the time that he was going through this we weren’t talking or had any communication. I saw him as I drove up to the circle k parking lot and recognized him.. He was embarrassed and didn’t want to look at me but I told him get your stuff and get in my car. I am not leaving you here. I offered my home to him and told him he had somewhere to stay until he could get on his feet again. He was on the street for a good 3 yrs. It took a while but he got back on his feet and mentally he was pretty messed up. But I helped him out as much as I could. I did it all with good intentions and with my heart. He is now working and has a car again, paid off :) And of course we ended up having feelings for eachother. 3 1/2 yrs later and after the 3yrs of being homeless for him, we are still together. He tells me all the time that I saved his life.
    He said it was the scariest thing of his life to have to go through that. Not knowing where you are going to sleep? Not knowing when is the next time you are going to eat? Where are you going to go to the bathroom? Not knowing if some crazy person will come out of nowhere and kill you? And he says he’s very thankful for all the people that would give him something to eat or drink because if it wasn’t for the kindness of those people he probably would of starved to death.
    And I’m sorry but through out the whole summary I read, it does not sound like you were homeless. If it were that easy for homeless people to go to the shelters and get housing, there wouldn’t be so many homeless people.
    Your life can change in an instant and you can go from having a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly to having nothing at all. Maybe even ending up at a park because you don’t know where else to go….
    The most humble people don’t have a lot but they do have big hearts. Those humble people with big hearts are the ones you see at parks feeding the homeless. They are the ones that appreciate every day of their lives because even if they don’t have much, they are thankful they have somewhere to call home and food to eat and enough to be able to help and make another meal for another life.
    I apologize that it was so long..

  • Socialworker911

    Thank you for this article. As a former inner city social worker, I completely agree, having seen it all daily, first hand. Your story abut Bear- I could easily name 50 others I worked with in the exact same position.

  • Lisa

    I think you are being to harsh on this man and not looking at what he said and what he already does. He stated that he is 67 years old and has worked for 43 years. The homeless person he speaks of said he gets welfare……you asked “what roles(s) are you willing to play in this matter?” First, he gave him $5.00, that was nice, second I will assume that because he works, he pays taxes, his taxes in theory pay the welfare system…….now add those taxes up over 43 years of working and it looks like a lot more than $5.00 to me.

    The real need is not those already being paid by the system, it is those that are not getting assistance (welfare).

  • Help a Homless person

    Please Donate to a homeless man that really need your help. Every dollar counts and just please donate what you can.. please Read the story!! I’ve been working countless hours to raise money. Please donate and spread the word!! GOD BLESS YOU ALL!! #helpthehomeless #needshelp #MakeADifference http://t.co/N8kdtcC3uH

  • Christy

    So I am very glad that you wrote this blog or article, I’m not sure which it is or if that even matters. My husband and I have recently had an interesting couple of experiences with this issue. It was so much in my face that I do want to do something that not only makes a difference on my local community level but, if it was successful, has a way to be duplicated elsewhere. I do have a concept that involves getting food to those who need by way of commercial food prep that would eliminate your health concern. However what it does not address is your point with regard to the circle of homelessness being broken by creating jobs or access to healthcare. Anyhow thank you for giving me something to think about.

  • Sandra Germaine

    Terri, do you know how to read an article TO THE END? Guess not.

  • Sandra Germaine

    What are you doing to help the homeless find jobs? Must be nice to see in that ivory tower of yours.

  • http://www.amandamichellejones.com Amanda Michelle Jones

    You mean the part of the ‘tower’ where I’m in a transitional living program, three days a week helping 16 young men get & maintain jobs, build life skills, and perform well in school? Or the part where I work with homeless and unstably housed youth to really get to what THEY see as barriers to their success?

  • Shhhh

    Okay so you’re the guy who’s going to bomb abortion clinics in the name of God huh? I’m sure that this is exactly what Jesus would have said in response to a man doing good. All you’re doing is bringing people down, so save your breath for all the screaming at your next book-burning, “christian”.

  • Moe

    You are a jerk off. You don’t know this man or his circumstances. I haven’t worked for two years (Im 44) but I suffer a number of disabilities, many of which are unseen, and I worked for as long as I could. I invested in a long term disability policy a long time ago before my unseen disability got the best of me so I’m not receiving government benefits although I could. I am also fortunate enough to have a wife who, like me, has a master’s degree and a job that pays well. Begging is lucrative, really? Does begging offer insurance and a retirement plan? Do you know if this man has an unseen medical condition? Begging is lucrative? Try it and see how like standing on the side of a road in humiliation begging for help you self righteous jerk.

  • Bradley Ryan Kendrick

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    Post by Bradley Ryan Kendrick.

  • Crusty Gronk

    What a brainless load of drivel this article is. Yes, it is sad we don’t live in a perfect world. Sure, individual churches should find a place where they’re not competing to feed the same group of people. And sure, if everyone got together and pooled their resources they might house a few people, or pay for a few to see Drs. But wake up to the reality, it’s not happing, not now or in the near future. Mean while these people need to be feed, and that is the one thing they do need in order to survive, long enough to get back on their feet. As for food handling? Do you realise how many homeless people eat out of bins and dumpsters? And you’re worried about a few dirty hands? These people don’t go wash their hands before they eat at the best of times pal. Has anyone done a study on the cases of food poisoning at these free food stations? I bet it’s lower than at many restaurants.

    Pooling resource might sound like the answer to you, but you have no clue. A charity here where I live claims for $99 a day they can supply a bed and a meal for one person. That’s almost $700 a week. Social security and old age pension pays no-where near that much, and yet people survive on it. I’ve had to live on $250 a week in a 2 bedroom unit, run my own vehicle. Payed my gas and electricity on time, not to mention I had a 20 year old daughter living at home with me. So, pool your resources? Sure, and have the charity takes MORE THAN HALF in administration costs? Wake up to the real world pal. I can supply close to 500 meals with $700, and a charity wants $700 to feed one man for a week—plus a bed. I’m sorry, but if your hungry, a meal is more important than a bed. No one dies for lack of a bed. They do, however, die from lack of a meal.

    I can feed a person for a few dollars a day. Where the heck do you suggest I get enough money or resources to train them, house them, sort out their emotional, physical and or psychological issue and then find them work? All this, while they are dying of starvation? people like you are the cause of the problem. My prayer is that for a year or two you get to live homeless and pennyless. See how much a sandwich means to you then. And as for the lady dying under the bridge—what the heck kind of help would a job be to her?

    As for community effort! That’s a laugh! Do you know how many people are willing to help out? It’s the same 3 or 4 people night after night. Community—yeah, right!

    I’ll continue to feed the homeless while I wait for brain-dead thoughtless arses like you, to find them jobs and houses. Or would you prefer they starve while you fix the real issue?

  • Crusty Gronk

    So, feed the ones that have a home? Drive all over the city, quadrupling the coast of a meal so that people in homes can get feed. let those that have homes get themselves to the place free food can be found. Just like the homeless do. I’ve seen men and women walk for hours to a place they can get a meal. How ridicules to suggest you drive your food all over the city! Will you pay the fuel bill?

  • Leslie Sox

    Cris1982, this was a touching story. The one point you brought up is that often people are homeless because their family, friends and often past coworkers won’t help them. It’s like they say, no man is an island and people don’t realize how much they depend on their social networks for survival and support. When you lose that social support from loved one you are in a very fragile situation.

  • Michelle Mimi

    I agree! But some of these so call churches helping, cut it help them keep their donations coming. But they also use what are given to them, to give to the homeless, to control most. And it’s like u get junk, but u volunteer, u get the best. Common sense let u know, u don’t give them, raw meat, sheets, radios, etc., things like that to someone living on the street.
    Noone want the responsibility of stepping out and doing the rite thing. It’s all about control. U say jump, I say, how high.
    I speak from experience. I was homeless, up until 7-8 months ago. ( thank god) I see what they did and are still doing, not I wish I had someone backing me up, cut I would show them and put into motion what can be done to help the homeless. My heart goes out to them all. I have a 23 yr. Old homeless here in florida, beaux they are misleading the women and the women with children. They gave her a 9 month period, now they giving her til some time this month8/13/14, will be her exit date. Now she can’t focus on helping her situation get better. Now she got to spend time finding, we’re are her and her 5yr. Old child going.
    As a mom, I would love to take her in. But, I’m in a housing program setting, we’re there are no children allowed or not a setting for. So, I don’t know what to tell her or what to do.

  • Michelle Mimi

    I was out there for a a Lil over a year. I seen and I was one of the ones who done everything. But once I did all I can do to help get funds. They one day told me, they was not going to be able to help me any more.
    That was after I just got funds for me to be paid up 2 weeks.but never a solution to how I can better my situation. One lady , and she know who she is, step in an help me and told me not to let her down.
    I was just a victim of circumstance’s…… Yes, I have many stories that need to be told, because it might just help the next person.
    I was trying to help, cut they was their to help us. But what ever I found out, I start becoming the voice for most the homeless. But financially, I can’t help. Even if I can get started in a nun profit oragnization, for the homeless. Where they can get the correct info to help their situation and feed their souls, (as I love to cook) and some where I can take them off the street. I feel I see u don’t really want help. I feed u, clothe u, and give you some where to show. But I will not let anyone just take up space to just lay not do nothing. Not for me, but for yourself.
    They need more pal , like myself, to have real love and compassion for the homeless. Everyone has a different story and need to be judge as their own situation now not someone else. We may have been homeless together, don’t mean we share the same reason , why you or I are homeless.
    If any one can help me in this situation, would be greatly appreciated.
    I WANT STOP TILL I CAN GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO WANNA CHANG THEIR SITUATION. NO ONE WOULD BE LOOKED OVER AND TREATED THE SAME. BUT JUDGE BY UP OWN SITUATION AND FIND OUT HOW I can best help you.
    I want or need nothing from the homeless. I truly what to help them.

  • Help the Homeless

    I moved to California a year ago from Texas and I have never seen so many homeless people. I am trying to get a non-profit going so that I can take donations to help the homeless. I would like to put together bags filled with toothpaste, toothbrush, bar of soap or wipes so that they can clean up, clothes and blankets to pass out, some cans of food and plastic ware, comb or brush. Homeless people need to feel like they are loved and need help. In California there is not enough shelters, no places to take a shower and most places have signs that you cannot use the restroom unless you are a paying customer. An order of French fries is 4.00. I feel horrible that our country has come to.

  • strong family

    Iv looked all over I have my wife daughter and a new born grandson and I we are trying to get back home to parkersburg wv and we r stranded in texas we live in a storage unit if u or you no any one that can help us plz email me my name is Joshua my email is arntcb29@gmail.com thank you and god bless you all:-)

  • Frederick Davis

    Dude, you’re just promoting your opinion of how you feel about this situation without actually getting any feedback from the masses of homeless/hungry people here in Los Angeles. I’m an LA native, I’ve never even been to New York and from all the bad press
    I hear about that place, I’d probably never go there. I’ve been all over this country when I worked as a trucker but now I’m back in LA and I’ve been there homeless and hungry.

    If you’ve never been homeless, you’ll never understand what they go through, first hand experience always trumps interviewing people on the street. There is some validity to what you say, I’ve been to places where the iceberg lettuce was yellow and they served it anyway, but your idea of networking is not going to solve anything because whenever you get people together this way, they will always abuse the situation.

    I currently live in south LA and there are these churches that give out groceries, even some of these churches are abusing the homeless/hungry by taking the good food for themselves and giving the borderline spoiled food to the homeless/hungry or keeping the meats and giving away the canned foods which have so much sodium in them for extended shelf life that they are not healthy to consume on any regular basis. I do think there should be regulation of some sort, maybe outlaw public feedings unless the people doing the feeding are part of a 501(c) organization like one of my friends does. He cooks the food himself, gets some friends to help serve the homeless on weekends and holidays.

  • MJL

    Help when you can, however you can. Regulating how people choose to volunteer and/or help those in need is not only ridiculous but insulting to those of us with empathy and compassion for fellow human beings. Regulation just prevented my parish from making food for homeless vets that we’ve done for years. Many were helped by job opps and housing help over that time. Now we can’t bring homemade food because of insurance reasons. According to this article, my parish did everything right…but we still are shut out. Which leads me back to: help when you can, however you can. mjl in Chicago

  • CR

    What a great story. As a person who is in Law Enforcement and currently working with the addicted, mentally-ill homeless population in Canada, I can tell you many of stories of how giving the homeless food is just as bad as giving them money. It has been well documented that giving them money will go to drugs and or alcohol but lets look at the food issue. As the story indicates hunger is a great motivator. If you give them food instead of money, they no longer need to spend their money on food. I have a client who we have found him housing and qualified him for income support of $1500 a month. His housing cost him $1000, which includes 3 meals a day, bedding and laudry services. Despite this opportunity and a host of support services, police are still finding him in the hallways of building sleeping. Why? Because he chooses to continually pan handle so he can drink to the point of passing out. When police encounter known homeless intoxicated/high persons, we usually find in their possessions (shopping carts) numerous packages of food; typically restaurant take out. I also speak from personal experience as I have had two brother that have been what you could describe as street people. One brother was a bottle picker. He was not addicted to alcohol or drugs but was on more than one occasion homeless. The bottle picker brother eventually got sick from collecting his bottles and decided that things needed to change. He decided to help him self and did reach out to someone he trusted, currently has a full time job and his own apartment. The other brother was not really homeless as he would use shelters and couch surf but he did beg. The brother would tell he could get up to $100 in a few hours which feed his Meth habit. He now gets income support but still panhandles to support his habit. He currently has a regular place to live (thanks to an end homeless campaign) and does not typically run into my fellow officers. Not the greatest success story but the supports did help him from going to shelter to shelter. If people make it easy for the homeless by giving them food and/or money they will not take the steps they need to better their lives. I am not a Christian but the saying “give a man fish and he eats for a day … teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime. There are a lot of good and well meaning social networks that are out there for the homeless to tap into. We need to give these networks our support and time. Let them get organized and efficient. If everyone keeps feeding the homeless it will not address the underlying issues such as addictions, mental health and homelessness.