Friday, March 17, 2006

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.

5 Comments:

At 5:37 PM, Blogger tommie said...

I feel some homeless people (Mind you, my knowledge on homeless people in the states is limited, and it is pretty likely to be wrong.) in the states are much more dignified than those in Japan. Homeless people in Japan are so isolated from the society which they should be regarded as they belong to. Once, students from the university which I graduated provided food and other necessity things like warm clothing because my hometown experiences about 5 month snow. I read it on the newspaper article and thought they did a great job, but some criticised them saying that such a kind of generousity does not help homeless people in a long term. I always feel those people could be right, but what do they really do for those disadvanted people? It is always easier to say than done.

 
At 8:58 AM, Blogger PeterD said...

There is a saying in English, something like "Give someone a fish, and they will eat for the day. Teach them to fish, and they will eat all their life". I think this may be the thought process of the people who said the students were not helping in the long term.

Hopefully these same people who didn't want the students giving food were doing something to help the homeless find work, get housing, and otherwise rejoin society.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Yes Kay ! said...

Peter, similar thoughts when i expressed that i give only for women esp with children or the seniors...bcos they dont have the ability to "fish". Logic is, even a poor country like India has programs to rehabilate all sections of the society (probably inefficient in comparison to US/Japan/west) but it involves working for pay. Most homeless in India esp healthier ones escape this system by just pan-holding.

Another dimension to this problem is - India's majority practice Hinduism and it's guiding principles are tolerance and compassion. It's akin to sin if u dont share your food if u find someone hungry around u. So, it's common to see pan-holders walking the streets during dinner time evoking compassionate gestures.

Well, different societies...different beliefs. I just dream of seeing the poverty wiped from the face of the earth during my lifetime. And am barely 30 :)...so my hope is realistic.

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger PeterD said...

Sree - Thanks for the comment.

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger stephenv dot com said...

Street Slave has added a new video of John "the Baptist" is 67 and feels that his homelessness is just another of his many life experiences.
12 Video clip is 13.5 minutes, taken on 5/5/2006 in Huntington Beach, CA.

 

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