I have been walking around the city of Detroit a lot lately. On almost every street corner I run into homeless people. Some are begging for money with their cups out, some are simply watching as the people pass them by. I have enjoyed taking the time to sit and talk with many of them. I never give them money, but I am always willing to get them food. It is amazing what you find out when you sit and ask them their stories. Each one is unique in the path that led them to the streets. So often homeless people get clumped into the group of “homeless people”, rather than being a homeless person. I enjoy finding out what it was that led each person to being homeless. I spent time on the streets being homeless too so I can relate. I wrote about my time on the streets in my autobiography. (www.createspace.com/4271634)
I have learned many things from taking the time talking to the people living on the streets. On many different occasions when I asked them about the fact that they are asking for money, we have discussed the reality of the intentions. When people pass by and they see a homeless person holding a cup people tend to do 1 of 2 things. Either they will put money in the cup or they will blatantly ignore them and walk right past. I have found that both options are not good options. When people choose to ignore them and walk past, it tells them that they are not a member of society and they do not even deserve the respect of being acknowledged as a person. This is heartbreaking and I have heard this from more than one person. The other option that people take is to give money away. I have heard from several people living on the streets that to give money is the worse thing you could do. They have acknowledged the fact that at the time of begging for money they are desperate and willing to do anything to get the money. They have also acknowledged that their intentions are to go buy crack/heroin or other drugs or alcohol to fulfill their addictions. They have also said that once they have gotten sober they wish that the people passing by had never given them the money to continue the cycle. They have all said that they don’t think logically like that at the time, but looking back they see that the people innocently giving them money for “the bus, or food” were only allowing them to remain addicted to drugs.
This was eye opening to hear this from homeless people themselves. It is natural to feel sorry for the people living on the streets and to just put money in the cup. That is the easiest thing we can do. When you really think about it, it may be easy but it is actually the most harmful thing you can do. If you really want to do a “good deed” and help somebody out who is struggling, the take the time to actually do so. This may mean to walk past them and go into the store to buy food for them and bring it right back to them. This may mean to give them the water bottle that you are currently holding. If you really wanted to help, you could buy a backpack and fill it with necessary items and give it to them as a gift. These things are all helpful to them. The biggest thing to realize is that they are people too. They just have a more difficult life than most.
I learned from a man on the street named terry, something very thought provoking. When I sat next to him on the steps to an abandoned church we talked about the idea of addiction. This is what he said “When a soldier goes to war and he gets injured in the field, if he knew he was going to die there eventually would you let him lie there in pain until he dies or would you inject him with medication to take the pain away of you had it? To us living on the streets we are going to die here eventually. We go days and sometimes weeks without food, and we don’t have medical care. eventually we will die in our suffering. Many of us inject heroin daily and take any drug or alcohol we can find. All we are doing is numbing the pain that we are in until we die. We are not harming anybody but ourselves. We are not showing up to work drunk and leaving our responsibilities for somebody else. This is our life and this is all it will ever be. We are just trying to make the best of our bad situation. In our situations we are in pain and to relieve our suffering we drink and do drugs to the point where reality doesn’t matter, that is our reality. So tell me again why what we do is wrong?”
I didn’t quite have an answer for him. He had a point. It put into perspective for me why they are “cracked out” as we call it. I believe that sometimes they are selling themselves short and denying their full potential. Does that make it right or wrong…..well that is not for me to judge….but it definitely gave me something to ponder….