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Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Homeless and Bums in Mill Valley

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Rebecca Chapman July 09, 2012 at 06:03 PM
spend a few days at one of the local shelters, amidst dangerous individuals, filthy food, gross bathrooms & uncaring staff members, & you might just find yourself with a whole different perspective! i agree with many of your points, but often a person begging for money is simply asking for a few bucks for some food, which anyone might find themselves doing at some point in their lives, like in mill valley when you forget your atm card in your cycling trousers & have to mooch for some latte money, or whatever...
CPB July 10, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Sorry - but I must disagree with the previous comment. I have seen the same individuals camped out on the islands of MIller ave. and Camino Alto for YEARS. Begging is a habit cultivated and sustained by our community of generosity and guilt. One young, attractive and healthy-looking woman carries her belongings in a fairly new North Face backpack, while wearing a sign that she "needs work" and does little to engender empathy as she sips from her Peet's coffee cup. These people clearly need help - but not in the form of a handout.
Rebecca Chapman July 10, 2012 at 02:26 AM
i agree with the previous comment, but must beg to differ as well. i am a healthy & robust looking individual (in my humble opinion, of course!), carry an iphone & kate spade purse, and seemingly should be without need. but if you learn my story, hear the details of my 'invisible disability' (epilepsy) & see past my missing teeth into the lunacy of a system that lumps together people with incredibly varying conditions (like my sister w/ schizophrenia & cancer vs. my legal.battle on her behalf, fought from out in the streets), oh, god, never mind! i just meed a few bucks for some grub, soap & bus fare. is that such a god----ed crime???
Rebecca Chapman July 10, 2012 at 03:46 AM
apologies for typos & rant. exhauted from eating a bag of free popcorn from goodman's for breakfast, & walking around blearily for most of yet another day. i really don't wish to fight about this anymore, though, as it's just gotten to be depressing (for me) beyond words...
Bobby July 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Thanks for bringing back a bit of common sense to our little corner of the world where most dream of world peace, unicorns and fairy dust!
Bud Wiesser July 10, 2012 at 05:52 PM
iphones cost what $70-80 a month to run; virgin mob offers a full svc plan for $35...its all about living within ones means which im sure ur trying ur best. we all gotta. tim is right (for once ;-) ... “help the helpless, and forget about the clueless.” And not to get racial but how come u never see asians nor latinos lookin for a handout? A: they're working the sht jobs nobody else wants. Yeah i said it and yall thought it. Peace.
Rebecca Chapman July 10, 2012 at 06:12 PM
oh, brother! i was gonna try to not say anymore, but re: the iphone comment, you're right, of course. except that when you're trying to navigate 'the system' (of food stamps, or whatever), there are rules one has to follow, like certain agencies require phone contact only, and some only 'do' e•mail. also, i thought my colorful purse was a nice treat i deserved, after losing ALL of my books, c.d.'s, clothes, kitchenware, furnishings, family heirlooms, photographs, letters, etc. i currently own a toothbrush, some toothpaste, 3 articles of clothing & my shoes, but, apparently i don't even deserve those. wow!!!
Rebecca Chapman July 10, 2012 at 11:22 PM
oh, i forgot to mention also losing my gorgeous stereo, beautiful paintings & favorite bicycle. but, it's fine in some ways. happy to not have all those enjoyable things to worry about anymore, just not so pleased that people who don't even know me continue to feel that i deserve less than nothing. i'm not one of the panhandlers, by the way. it just doesn't seem worth it, somehow...
Bud Wiesser July 31, 2012 at 03:40 AM
The signs seem to be working. But isn't there already a law against loitering?

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