Friday, September 12, 2008

Hobo in La Jolla: Stanley and his Monster

There are some actions that if not outright illegal, then should have a moral imperative brought about by common sense against carrying out.

There are laws to protect the incompetent. Those rules are in place to protect people not only from themselves but from those who would wittingly or other wise do them harm or take advantage of them in some way. I'd like to think this applies to the homeless populations but if it does no one enforces it or thinks it applies.

One could not in good conscience give a junkie a bag of heroin, a 90 year old blind man with Alzheimer's the keys to a motor vehicle, a teen-aged goth girl a razor, a monkey a gun, a fox the key to the hen house, or a fanboy any comic from 1990s Marvel. Common sense and legislation prevent such doings because horrible and tragic events will inevitably result.

Yet no one seems to think twice about buying an alcoholic a 6-pack pack of beer.

Stanley is homeless and is a relative newcomer to the area. But in typical vagrant fashion he quickly managed to get himself banned from all the local shops because of his behavior and tendency to steal. Some days ago Stanley had a medical emergency after bolting nearly a gallon of beer in less than a half hour after procuring it from someone. He passed out in the landscaping of a nearby store. When Stanley woke up he managed to take one faltering step and firmly planted his forehead directly into the sidewalk with no attempt to catch his fall. He was probably unconscious after the second bounce of his head against the concrete. While I called emergency services a Lifeguard ran up and helped Stanley and shortly after the Police and the Fire Department arrived. They took a struggling and altered Stanley away for some quality medical treatment at taxpayer expense.

Stanley returned the following day, this time sporting a number of weeping, bloody stitches in his forehead. For the next several days I found Stanley passed out on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, a number of empty beer cans beside him. On the third day I woke Stanley up, took the remaining unopened cans of beer away and handed him a sandwich. I spoke with him for a bit though I doubt anything I said would motivate him to get some help. The talk probably did me more good than it did him. I admit I felt better after displaying some compassion. After a few minutes Stanley got up and staggered away down the street. It has been a few days now since I've seen him. Hopefully he is in a shelter or back in the hospital going through some program.

I have little sympathy or patience for the homeless. Yet my impatience with people who, as far as I am concerned created their own situation, is being outweighed by my anger and disgust at those others who enable they who no longer have control over themselves or good judgment. If someone wants to feel like decent human being I urge them to do it in another way other than giving money to those who would use it as a resource to harm themselves further. It's convenient, I know. Handing over a dollar or some pocket change to a homeless person is like paying a toll for being in public and it makes you feel better. But in reality you are not helping. Don't give the homeless money and for pity's sake don't buy any alcohol.

Every day I have a customer tell me they are buying beer for some vagrant waiting outside "because they really need it." This is wrong-headed and just plain wrong. I understand that someone thinks they are helping by supplying someone with what they are addicted to, but don't do it. You may as well be putting a gun up against their heads and pulling the trigger. Buying an alcoholic a bottle of booze to feed their addiction is cruel and should be illegal. It is against law, common sense and morality to give someone who is suicidal a box of rat poison. Why is it acceptable to give an alcoholic a case of beer? Is it because one form of self-termination is quicker than the other?

Want to spare a dollar for the homeless? Buy a 99 cent bag of pretzels. Buy a few bagels. A stick of beef jerky. Anything they can eat. Give them food. Nothing else. If they don't want to eat it, then fine. You did a good deed and didn't make their situation worse. But just stop with giving them cash and stop with buying them booze.

14 comments:

  1. Yeah, you're right, Sleestak.

    Downtown Indianapolis has its share of homeless people, and every single one of the the few I've encountered so far were obviously alcoholics. One drunk approached me for change once, and I told him, "I don't have any cash on me, but if you follow me to that restaurant, I can order and pay for a decent meal for you." He just gave me a dirty look and walked away. I guess he didn't want any real help.

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  2. Giving booze to an alcoholic friend or family member is ignorant and mean, giving it to a stranger is heartless and cruel. THEY DON'T "NEED" IT NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY THINK SO! It's sad to see people destroying themselves and unable to stop, why would anyone help push them over the edge?

    Kudos for giving him a sandwich, I only hope the talk helped :(

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  3. Stick to talking about comics. Not all homeless caused their own situation. Yes, giving alcohol to someone who is homeless is ridiculous, but reinforcing 1920s stereotypes does not help. Do some research first: large numbers of FAMILIES with CHILDREN are homeless.

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  4. I'll write about what I want, thanks. YOU don't like the content then read something else.

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  5. Definitely; no one has the right to come to your blog and tell you what to say. Anonymous definitely went out of bounds with his first sentence.
    The rest of his comment is right though. Without telling you that you "should" stick to one topic or another, I will say that I think that you're Just Fucking Wrong and are espousing a somewhat dickish take on the issue.

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  6. A call to stop giving an alcoholic booze is wrong and "dickish"? I guess it's fortunate I didn't demand we stop beating orphans for fun.

    I think that what people are keying on is that I think the average homeless person brought it on themselves. I think no one actually read it, just flipped out when they saw a few words they didn't like.

    1) Stanley can't stop drinking.
    2) People keep giving him beer.
    3) He hurts himself, I call 911.
    4) he comes back, more people give him beer.
    5) I take his beer away and give him food.
    6) I think people are jerks to give him beer.
    7) What is wrong with "my take"?

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  7. None of that stuff you just listed. Strictly the "created their own situation" part, at least as long as you fail to qualify it and just refer generally to "the homeless" as a whole. You now clarify, and say this is not how you meant it, but as I said the original post doesn't include the qualification.
    I quote:
    "I have little sympathy or patience for the homeless. Yet my impatience with people who, as far as I am concerned created their own situation..."
    You don't specify specific subsets of the homeless, like alcoholics or drug addicts, you just say "the homeless."
    Also, remember a significant number of mentally ill homeless people are the result of a superficially "enlightened" policy of "returning mental patients to be cared for in the community" which just meant stopping funding for & closing mental hospitals and dumping the patients onto the streets. Hardly a case of "creating their own situation."
    I was replying to your reply to anonymous, who objected (clearly solely) to that very particular thing.

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  8. Of course I lumped all the homeless together without clarification. For the purposes of what I was saying I didn't feel it needed any clarification.

    Stanley and the others aren't "A No.1" trying to hitch a ride on a train while avoiding the attentions of Ernest Borgnine. And let me be honest. Drug addicts and alcoholics...no one made them pick up that needle or bottle. And that's how I feel about it.

    The mentally ill, are another matter, but I deal with all subsets of the homeless everyday and each one of them are invariably a physical threat, steal (even though many, like Stanley, are in programs that get them shelter or food) or, and I don't defend this, make our customers uncomfortable.

    As for being dickish, well, the next time one of the locals pukes a gallon of beer up on the bathroom floor while at the same time leaning up against the sink for support and crapping his pants...then let's see someone offended by lumping all homeless together clean it up and see how concerned they are about descriptive subsets.

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  9. Wow....your right you shouldn't give alcohol to alcoholics....but saying that ALL homeless people created their situation is really cruel and stupid. Read up on the homeless sometime or...you know have common sense...and you will realize most did not.

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  10. As far as not needing clarification goes, if you follow the thread of the comments, the fact that I wasn't talking about the whole "don't give alcohol to alcoholics" thing seemed pretty glaringly obvious to me.
    And you don't have to coddle street people who harass you to acknowledge that they didn't all get there solely by their own faults. I myself am pretty damn hostile when bugged on the street for change; that doesn't mean I don't think that many of them are victims.
    That last bit about how someone who doesn't lump them all in the same pile would feel about cleaning up after them, well, it's just a bit of total non-logic - it's meaningless and bears no resemblance to an actual argument.

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  11. It has everything to do with my feelings about them.

    I agree saying all homeless cause their own situation isn't accurate and I accept the corrections. Is it accurate to claim that all cats are black in the dark? No. And I don't care. My interaction (over the last year at least)with them is for the most part shallow and that's where I keep it. That's all. It is easier for me to not care about the plight of the individual homeless and I prefer to lump them all together. I'm focusing on one thing and you are focusing on another and I'm not addressing your concerns. I admit that.

    A little under two years ago I and my family were nearly homeless. The cost of repairing a flat tire on the car, a trip to the Pharmacy for some cold medicine, any minor emergency would have tipped the family over the edge. It was that tight. It was just luck that the three of us were not out on the street in Maryland in December. Who knows what would have happened to us after 6 months on the street? But when things got bad I didn't grab a needle or crawl into a bottle. That's where I'm getting some arrogance from. Am I being an ass-hat about it? Sure.

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  12. Look, I feel kind of bad about getting into this whole silly spat with you when I was only here in the first place because I generally enjoy reading the blog.
    I only got into this in the first place to make the general point "it's not cool to tell someone what to say on their blog, but calling them a dick over something they say is fair game."
    And sorry to get back to the nitpick thing again, but I didn't mean that it wasn't about how you feel about them, just that how others feel isn't dependant upon how you feel about them (as far as the whole "how would you like to have to deal with and clean up after them" thing went; that's a type of line of argument that always sticks in my craw, and I reacted).

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  13. pfieeuw, as a European i am stunned by the arrogance of the self proclaimed supiority of yourselve..

    Homeless & drugs are symptoms of a bad society.

    The USA as richest nation of the Globe has the most homeless and the highest rate of drugaddicts..

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