Thoughts on Homless People
This is just a quick post, so English only. Hopefully some time later I can post a Japanese translation also...
I was driving on Polk Street in San Francisco yesterday, and saw a homeless person begging outside of the Walgreens drug store. This area of San Francisco is relatively affluent - I've been around here enough to recognize the 2 regular homeless (the less affluent areas, and the tourist areas, have many more homeless). There is an older black gentleman, who is very talkative, dresses well, and looks clean. And also a 30ish asian guy, who obviously sleeps on the street. I haven't talked to the Asian guy yet, but because his sign asking for handouts says "sparing change" (incorrect English), I suspect was not born here. I have meant to try to talk to him, and see if I can determine where he is from, but I have not gotten up the nerve yet.
From time to time, there will be a different homeless person or two in this area, but it is rare. They seem to have their territories, and few come into this stretch of Polk street.
But yesterday I saw this older gentleman begging. I looked at him and thought he could be my grandfather. He was clean and well dressed. Made me wonder what situation caused him to have to beg on the street. I rarely give money to homeless, but I did consider stopping and giving him some money. If I see him there again, I just may.
I think my thoughts were tempered by a conversation I had the previous day with Sree, a guy who was a student of mine a year or two ago. We were talking over lunch about his home country, India. I have not been there yet, so was very interested to hear what he had to say. He said that when foreigners arrive, one of the first thing they are hit by is the amount of poverty and beggars in India. I asked him if he ever gave money to poor people, figuring that because there was so much he would say no (I don't give much directly to homeless because there are just so many on the street - it just doesn't feel fair to me to give to one but not all).
I was surprised when he said he does, but only to women with children and old people. Women with children he gives to because he feels that because begging is so demeaning for a mother, they much be in really bad straits if they are begging. And there isn't social security or other safety nets in India, so old people who didn't make out well in life don't have much choice. But men, he won't give to because he feels they should be working instead of begging.