Thursday, November 15, 2007

In the News

A nearby TV station interviewed a "homeless" man from my community and it was sadly comical.

I know the man as I have had a few encounters with him, and I know people who are terrified of him. I'm not but I understand the people who are because his disposition is just plain nasty.

During the interview he said that "drinking is not my problem." I beg to differ as he is always drunk.

What is truly sad is the number of people, Church groups and government agencies, who have honestly tried to help this man and it has done no good. Every winter he intentionally gets arrested so he can stay warm, though I am curious how he can remain sober for that long.

What is also sad is because he is more than half American Indian he gets a generous monthly check from the casinos. Between this and his SSI he makes more money a month than I do and he is homeless. The community is on to him and no longer pities him. He says he wants to go to Florida.

I bet the town would buy him that ticket.

As I think of this man I consider that there is actually two different kinds of poverty and each one has a different cure. There is Poverty of Circumstance where external circumstances put a person in poverty. There is also Poverty of Vice where a person's own choices and lifestyle lead to poverty. Sensible aid will help those whose Poverty is caused by circumstance but will only enable those whose poverty comes from their own choices. Tough love is the wrong answer for poverty of circumstance and is the only answer for the poverty of vice.

We need to recognize the two poverties, know how to differentiate them, and be willing to use the proper response to each one. That means we have to use judgment.


Anonymous Seth said...

In 1999 and 2000, living in San Francisco, I encountered a number of people who fell into the poverty of circumstance category, most of them because demand for their high-tech skills in Silicon Valley had bottomed out and their credit had shortly thereafter gone to the dogs. But those I knew were scrambling constantly to find anything they could to do for a living, from low-paid temp jobs to retail, and used whatever was available to find affordable lodging. I knew a couple of physically disabled guys who were on SSI, and used that small amount of income to rent rooms in cheap hotels and eat frugally. These were responsible people whom I saw no problem in helping out from time to time.

Poverty of vice is one thing I've seen plenty of, and in the case of homeless people on SSI who choose to drink or drug up their monthly taxpayer-financed checks in a day or two rather than find someplace to live, the taxpayer is getting ripped off. Why should our hard-earned tax dollars be used to get people we don't even know drunk, or invested in the fortunes of the local crack dealer?

SSI is supposed to be for people who are disabled to the extent that they can't work to support themselves, yet the system pays out monthly sums to thousands of people as compensation for their self inflicted and ongoing alcohol and drug habits. All they have to do is find a cooperative doctor (usually a shrink) or two and, after being turned down once, a lawyer, and they're all set.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous tim said...

I know you'll disagree with this, but I really think peeps like this should be rounded up and put into institutions where the govt. basically says "look, you have proven time and again that you do not have the coping skills to manage an independent life, and therefore you are being placed here, where you will be detoxified, given training in financial literacy, life management, and job training. You will have to earn the right to enter into a halfway house (outpatient?) facility, and if sucessful there, finally, after job and housing placement, you will re-enter society as a productive, well adjusted individual. If you refuse to co-operate, you will be placed in a mental institution where you will not be a danger to yourself or others". I'm in NYC now, and mere moments before writing this I walked past 3 men sleeping on the street in front of my midtown Manhattan hotel. I'm sorry, but you freedom ends where my nose begins. That is, when you are imposing on society's expectation of clean, orderly sidewalks and streets that are not blocked by these people. We should do this not to punish, but to help these people to overcome these terrible addictions.

7:45 PM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Actually I agree 100% with you tim. This man needs to be institutionalized as he is a danger to himself and at least as importantly others. He is banned from most of the businesses in town and people won't go near the park that he and his buddies hang out at.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

The trouble is that the welfare bureaucrats can't or won't distinguish between the two kinds of poverty.

8:39 PM  
Blogger benning said...

Don't send him here! We have enough drunken "urban outdoorsmen" right now.

3:04 PM  

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