The Homeless and Orlando

Every big city has this problem. Every society for that matter. Homelessness.

Recently, city leaders decided to crack down on the distribution of food given out to homeless folks. And the homeless and their supporters have responded to this by protesting on the steps of City Hall. Seems Monday, they’ll be doing this again from 1-2pm.

I live downtown. And almost daily I’m met with panhandlers in various spots. A current fave is the light on North Bound Orange Ave as you’re about to get on the 408 at OUC.

I was raised to by my family to be generous, considerate and to help people in need. And so I find myself at an odd crossroads when I’m faced with handing over cash to someone who is obviously homeless and has a dirty, discarded cup and he’s rattling it at my window. But there’s something inside of me that won’t let me roll down my window and fork over any spare change I’ve got. And I’m not sure I can tell you why.

If the firemen are out with their boots on a Saturday, boy I am emptying my purse of anything and everything in the way of dollar bills, coins… I’m even digging in the seats. Through my work, I donate to a variety of United Way Charities and Goodwill as well. I’m all for helping people who need the help, who are down and out, who need a leg up.

And yet sometimes I have to wonder why I keep seeing the same faces at the traffic lights or under the bridges. I honestly can tell you that there is a whole community of people who are out there and are homeless… and I might get hate mail for this… but they seem to WANT to be homeless.

Am I the only person who feels this way? I realize that because I live in downtown, I see it more than others who live on the outskirts. But if for months and YEARS you keep seeing the same faces… and you have to wonder.

And I do wonder what has brought them to this point in their lives… but more importantly I wonder what keeps them there. Do we lack enough social programs to help people become self sufficient again? Do we just have no other options for them? Is this a one-way ticket that’s impossible to get out of this situation once your in it?

I don’t have any desire to condemn these people because I know nothing about them or their life circumstances. I honestly admit I know very little about the programs in place to help folks living on the streets. But I think instead of trying to hide these people or push them off into a different part of our community (i.e. by shutting down their meal options), maybe we need to start a dialouge about it.

What do you think Orlando? Am I wrong for not handing over my spare change? Are we as a city ignoring our most fragile and fraile? Is the city just trying to sweep this problem under the rug instead of addressing it? Or has it been addressed and these folks just want a free ride with no rules?

2 Comments so far

  1. Kellan (unregistered) on October 29th, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

    It’s all situational. Every person has a different story. Some need and feed off of a life of semi-anarchy, others are mentally unstable, where as many have hit rock bottom. It’s a coin toss when it comes to addressing the issues that come with this topic. Are you really “helping” out when you give that homeless person your spare change? Or, are you just feeding a habit/perpetuating the time that they spend on the street by giving them that money? It seems that the idea of the American Dream has gone a little too far. It has formed a very singular mindset that does not include “we” in many peoples minds. Many think that those out on the streets choose that lifestyle because they are just too lazy to go get a job. For some, maybe that is the case but I’m betting its much deeper than that. I don’t think that by taking away outlets for improvement in ones life is any way to solve an ever growing dilemma.

  2. Terry Howard (unregistered) on October 30th, 2006 @ 9:45 am

    I wanted to comment on the Fire Dept stoplight collections (I know, off the point, but…) I think that needs to stop in a real big hurry. I refuse to give them a dime when they do that, it is a really poor example to set for people by an agency that’s tasked with some primary safety matters and cleaning up the horrible fall out of people being grossly unsafe. Running about in heavy traffic at a light going up to cars and standing on medians with cars whizzing by is about the most unsafe way to collect donations I can think of. Really really poor example to set for others guys, cut that crap out.

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