Thursday, May 3, 2007

Choice or Victim?

So I was driving to the hospital where I work this afternoon and come to an intersection with a pan handler at the corner.

He was in a wheel chair and missing his left leg from the knee down. He had a descent jacket on, descent jeans and right shoe. He even had sense enough to be wearing a safety vest like those worn by highway workers. (Maybe he stays until after dark) His sign read: Victim of Hit + Run, Lost leg, God Bless. He was obviously looking for donations.

First let me say that I do feel for this person and missing a leg doesn't make life any easier. But these scenarios get me wondering about the nature of people and what they expect of the rest of us past what we as society already help with. (Whether that is enough for the various populations that receive aid is a topic for another day)

My state of Massachusetts is the , or one of, the most liberal and giving of all stated in way of health benefits to the needy. Our welfare is truly that and Mass Health and Health Net basically cover everyone that needs any type of medical coverage.

Did this person have a job before his unfortunate accident?
Does he have a prosthetic? I cannot believe that Mass Health wouldn't give him at least a basic prosthetic after an accident. HMmmm, why isn't it on?
Does he accept welfare?
Does he pay taxes on his donation receipts?

OK, I know these seem silly but I could no way think of myself , because of having only one leg, becoming a pan handler, as I can see myself becoming a heroin addict.

What decisions and thoughts go through a person's head to disengage from life and do nothing?

Is it laziness?
Is he truly' disabled'? Gee, so that guy with one leg that passed me in IRONMAN...what was his excuse?

So I feel compassion I suppose to a point. I must confess to not giving a hand out.

A Friend had a similar scene but this sign on a 'whole' person was "Will work for food". Again, he was pan handling. My friend is a very successful landscape person, owning his multi million dollar business for several years now. He came up along the island in a work truck as he was on a crew of his that day and told the man to jump in, He could work the day, get fed a hot meal and payed for his effort. If he wanted he could come back to work the next day.

The response, "F*CK You!" and he spit at him and walked up the island away from my friends truck and crew. Hmmmmm, do you blame me for being a cynic? I know it isn't always the case but a few usually ruin it for the many. I know I'm not giving today.


Kanani said...

Hi Matty,
I think it's safe to say that a lot of the homeless have mental disabilities. Some have been diagnosed, others have not. Almost all of them are not receiving medication.

My friend has a son who is schizophrenic. He has been off and on the streets, off and on medication, in and out of the house. He is incapable of holding down a job or a relationship. You can read about her struggles here.
Her life with him all through his childhood, teen years and adulthood has been extremely difficult.

As far as panhandlers, I tend to give my money to organizations who can offer them a variety of services. But when I see them, all I can think of is that "this is someone's son/daughter/brother or sister.

Matty said...

I can certainly agree that most are as you say. I think your idea of giving to organizations that can help those that either truly need it or want the assistance is sound. Having said that there ism in every community those that live a grifting lifestyle. It is difficult to describe in words for me the scene that played out with this particular gentleman in the wheel chair. From my viewpoint he seemed to be interacting very efficiently and without the 'look and manner' (i know that its'nt politically correct but description fails me) of someone that was scizophrenic. I am compassionate but I have a sense that are those that prey on this. Someone should do a video study of what and where these people go from their pan handling positions. Do they go to a nice home? Under a bridge? What things do they become involved with with the money they collect? Hey, they do it with workman's comp and auto insurance why not in this....just to see what happens some of the time. I think it could be enlightening. Still, when in doubt give to reputable this we agree.

Kanani said...

Well, if you're panhandling for money, chances are, you're not coming from a very good place either mentally or emotionally. We've had a couple of clients who are homeless who land in the hospital with long-festering problems.

Most of the people have absolutely nothing except for a shopping cart. Most don't even have an i.d. or if they do, it's decades old. They have no family ties --each giving up on each other mutually.

There are many who are there with various addictions that were drive in part due to undiagnosed disorders: bi polar, depression, anxiety, a general inability to fit in for whatever reason.

There are others who are there because of long term medical disabilities, and they've managed to slip though all the cracks of public assistance and now they're on the streets.

A few years ago, I volunteered in a food bank. The cases that were the worst, were those with families. It just impacted so terribly on the kids --often the parents had various underlying mental deficits or emotional probs, as well as addictions. I always felt helpless when seeing those kids. But at least our organization had lots for them --after school programs, weekend programs... all sorts of things.

Matty said...


I had a different experience at a soup kitchen once. And please know that I am not being combative either. I just wonder if their are some that DO take advantage of the system. I volunteered at a kitchen in a very depressed neighborhood in Holyoke Ma. No one worked. Kids on the street, Adults sitting on corners... But they always made it to the kitchen for lunch.

I swear, every one of them was very well spoken, albeit Spanish. Well mannered and IMPECCABLY dressed. Yes, I saw beautiful italian loafer shoes, sneakers on children that I can't afford to buy my kids. Designer everything. Rolex watches...I must say it bothered me. Not becuase I didn't or couldn't have it, but that many of us are busting our butts while, and I will say 'apparently', these people reap some reward. I was their for a whole summer and I saw little to any mental disorder, Bi-P, Sciz...behavior.
Again, NOT trying to be argumentative to your posts but I cannot shake that feeling that some are just milking others. I find myself MUCH more ready to give to cancer foundations, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and the like. Thanks so much for reading and posting.

Kanani said...

Let's say you have a family of four living off an income that pays minimum wage or something close to it. Or they're here illegally and they're making money under the table and it's not even minimum wage.

With the preponderance of thrift stores, discounters and even housekeepers who are given ...that' right given... old clothes from employers, it's often difficult these days to judge someone from what their wearing in order to discern their true economic status (And it works both ways. How many of our kids' parents drive big fancy car, but are stretched to the limit with debt?).

So I'd say the working poor who use things like soup kitchens or services like "Second Harvest" aren't taking advantage. Many are truly trying to make ends meet.

That's why I like organizations like Habitat For Humanity, whose clients go through a screening process that most people would fail. They go through a finance program, and they have to help build the house and do future fundraising. It's giving back, and I think everyone feels better when this is a component of a program.

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