For some reason when I was a young boy, there seemed to me a romantic appeal to the life of a hobo. Riding the trains from town to town, eating cold beans out of a can, schmoozing with the other hobos as you travel the rails.
There are other ways of describing hobos: bums. As time as evolved, political correctness has now re-titled hobos and bums as homeless. Homeless seems to imply that through no fault of their own, life has dealt them a bad hand of cards and they need special treatment or compassion that may have not been previously available.
This leads us up to the , with a sign, from handing our money to beggars at the intersections of Miller and Camino Alto, and Camino Alto and East Blithedale.
What to do about homelessness is about as a complex question as to how life originated. Most research into the numbers points to a majority of the homeless as folks with mental problems. This would indicate that most homeless are not those who had a stroke of bad luck with their finances and now need a lending hand. Most of these beggars (panhandlers is a more politically correct way to put it) are in it for life, and begging is a daily routine.
The short-term immediate plan by Mill Valley seems to be the correct call: simply don’t hand out money at the stoplights. It may seem heartless, and these poor souls certainly do give us a sense of guilt to our well-being. (“There by the grace of God go I…”) Who does NOT want to give a few bucks if it will help these folks? But in the long run, if we are indeed intent on helping them, we should NOT give them money. This has little or nothing to do with the safety or the traffic flow at the intersections. This is a more practical way of streamlining these homeless/bums to homeless shelters where there truly IS HELP and a bowl of soup to eat.
There must be a way to separate the truly needy from the truly lazy. There must be a way to (as Dennis Miller so eloquently states it) “help the helpless, and forget about the clueless.” All Americans should be eager to help the person or family who has truly had a stoke of bad luck. Be it a government safety net, or a local charity, there is agreement on this from those from both sides of the political aisle.
At the same time, there is also a truly significant number of individuals looking for a government handout (or handout at the corner of Miller and Camino Alto) who have made destructive, foolish, irresponsible life decisions that have put them in their current state. My compassion and eagerness to help the later is tempered significantly compared to those who are helpless.
Encouraging panhandling on the Mill Valley streets only confirms that this is a “meal ticket” for the next day and the next. It’s a band-aid to the life of a person who needs help. That help is available at many churches and public assistance halls. Support those generously and make life a little better for all.