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Another encounter with a homeless
Old 06-02-2012, 04:35 PM   #1
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Another encounter with a homeless

I know we have talked about panhandling and homeless people and our encounters with them on this board before, but I just ran into one at Safeway parking lot, so I thought I'd write about this.

I was looking for a parking spot and saw this old lady (looked about in her 70's) with a shopping cart. I glanced at her and her face was sunburned and she had a scarf covering up most of her face. Her shopping cart was full.

When I parked my car, I wanted to approach her since she did look homeless, but I wanted to make sure before I gave her anything. (I didn't want to offend someone eccentric who just looked homeless). When I got really close to her (I did see that she had a sign that read "Homeles Lady"), she stopped me before I did anything, and showed me a piece of paper with a shopping list. (Whole cooked chicken, BBQ sauce, veggie tray). She asked me if I could go get them for her from the store. She said she would go in herself, but she gets panic attacks. She gave me her wallet, and I said, That's OK, but she said, Oh I have money, please take this, so I took the wallet. I started going down the list to make sure I got the right items (Is that strange?? I thought she might have a favorite brand of BBQ sauce. I didn't know how big a veggie tray she wanted.) I don't know what I was expecting, but she was totally normal and articulate.

Anyway, so, I went in and got her stuff, came out and gave her the groceries and the wallet back. (As you probably guessed, I didn't spend her money. I did open her wallet though - there was a bunch of $1 bills and I saw one $5 bill, but I didn't dig through it so I don't know how much was in there, but I am sure the money probably more than covered the cost of the groceries she asked for.) She peeled off the blanket that covered the top of the cart and put the groceries in there... I saw some old plastic bottles with water and some colored drinks in the cart.

She was very grateful; Oh, you haven't even gotten your own stuff yet, you are so sweet, etc, etc. I don't know why, but I feel very sad right now.

I should have at least gotten her a sunscreen.
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Old 06-02-2012, 04:41 PM   #2
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Of course you are sad. We can't help but think, way way in the back of our minds, that there but for the grace of God go I.

I feel sorry for her and wonder why grocery stores give her panic attacks. Sure, the prices are higher than they used to be, but panic attacks? I wonder if she is under the influence of alcohol, medications, or drugs, or if she is just eccentric.
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Old 06-02-2012, 04:51 PM   #3
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I work in a homeless/refugee/working poor feeding program that our church has been involved with for many years and it is sad and shocking to witness how many fellow Americans rely on a hand out of something as basic as a lunch meal each day. It is not unusual for us to feed 250 folks at each meal. Many of them seem to have mental problems but a growing number are just plain out of work, down and out and searching for a break in life.
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Old 06-02-2012, 05:19 PM   #4
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This is a scam, but a pretty harmless one. The homeless person knows her system has a better success rate that "Hi, would you please go in the store and buy me a roast chicken?" She knew you wouldn't use her money.

It was nice of you nonetheless.

Also nothing could induce me to take a stranger's wallet. "That's him officer!"

Sorry that life has made me so cynical.
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Old 06-02-2012, 05:56 PM   #5
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This is a scam, but a pretty harmless one. The homeless person knows her system has a better success rate that "Hi, would you please go in the store and buy me a roast chicken?" She knew you wouldn't use her money.

It was nice of you nonetheless.

Also nothing could induce me to take a stranger's wallet. "That's him officer!"

Sorry that life has made me so cynical.
I don't know what's sadder, her situation or your cynicism.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:16 PM   #6
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T-Al,
Count me cynical also, I spent 2005-2010 running into that same poor lady with the panic attack thing in Albertson's, Ralphs, and Luckys in Los Angeles. For a lady with all those anxiety issues, she sure managed to tolerate their parking lots.

Poor ole sole (sic), wonder how she manged to spend most days handing out those lists, and her wallet, must be tough from a homeless shopping cart, bless her heart. And to have the fortitude to go pushing a shopping cart the 3-4 miles between all those stores with that horrible anxiety attack going on. Wow.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:24 PM   #7
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There is no simple answer.......all of you are at least partially right.

!st of all, I never, never give to a beggar. I believe that the majority of the money you give will go to booze or drugs. But....that being said, I believe we should all help the down and out, fully realizing that many of them have mental problems.

How can I help? I both donate money and time to a homeless shelter and food kitchen run by Catholic Charities. They are in many metro areas and do a fantastic job feeding and caring for the homeless. You'll find "regulars" who have been going every day for years. You'll also find new "victims", people that just lost their jobs and homes that really, really need our understanding and help. they think of us as "do gooders" and smile in appreciation whenever I'm there.

If you want to better understand some of the homeless and why they choose to live the way they do, consider reading "The Glass Castle", by Jeanette Walls. It's about a family that chooses to live homeless, they have children who live an unusual childhood and grow beyond childhood to live the life of their choice.

No question but the homeliess make up all kinds. The lady mentioned above may have very well realized that most people would take her list, get it for her but not take her money.........I would have gotten everything for her and not touched a penny of her cash. I would give to any beggar, like her, that would spend the money on food.

But, I know I'm repeating myself, most homeless can go to food kitchens and be fed. Many beggars use the money for booze and drugs.......I won't give to that.

Finally, I'm lucky and I know it. These people are mentally ill......I'm lucky I'm not. These people are down on their luck......I'm lucky I'm not. We'd have a great Country if we fed the poor, treated the mentally ill and locked up the druggies, especially the drug peddlers. Thank you TM999, you were caring and compassionite. Someday you'll be rewarded for it.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:24 PM   #8
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Even if it was a scam, how sad that a 70+ woman would choose to do such a thing - whether from need or? It plain upsets me to see the homeless elderly.

There are lots of people who just didn't plan. Perhaps they simply didn't have the wherewithal to think ahead - or, didn't consider that the good times will not last. For some, they just had bad luck. And, yes, for many there is a drug/alcohol/mental illness component.

We do give to the local food bank. I am considering becoming more involved with the local shelter.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:51 PM   #9
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T-Al,
Count me cynical also, I spent 2005-2010 running into that same poor lady with the panic attack thing in Albertson's, Ralphs, and Luckys in Los Angeles. For a lady with all those anxiety issues, she sure managed to tolerate their parking lots.

Poor ole sole (sic), wonder how she manged to spend most days handing out those lists, and her wallet, must be tough from a homeless shopping cart, bless her heart. And to have the fortitude to go pushing a shopping cart the 3-4 miles between all those stores with that horrible anxiety attack going on. Wow.
I think the reason I felt so sad afterwards was because I pictured my mom in her place. I just cannot imagine this lady not having some family support when she is down and out, but I don't know her circumstances (I know some people who wouldn't even tell their kids if they became homeless) so I should just drop it.

Al and Zero,

You guys are actually making me feel better about this whole encounter. I guess people do whatever they can to survive. (I know she is out on the street a lot from her wrinkled sunburn face.) I hope she actually has a place to go to sleep at night. On a lighter note, as you could tell from the shopping list, she is a low-carber with pretty healthy food choices (except for some sugar in the BBQ sauce, but when is the last time a homeless asked for a veggie tray?).

Jerome,

I have a friend who gives food (mostly fast food) to homeless people when he sees them on the street panhandling. Same thought as you, drugs no, food yes.
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Old 06-02-2012, 08:15 PM   #10
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There are nearly as many reasons as there are homeless people. Like several previous posters, I help with dinner at a downtown church that serves 150-200 folks every Thursday. I've been doing this off and on for more than 10 years, and there are some people that I recognize as being consistent guests. On the other hand, we recently had a young man come in with his toddler daughter. He explained that when he and his wife were homeless addicts, they were fed physically, emotionally, and spiritually by this dinner. They have been sober for several years now, are both employed, are homeowners, and parents of a beautiful daughter. They came back to express their thanks to those who serve and their encouragement to the guests. We were all in tears.

One other idea if you want to help out - buy $5 gift cards to fast food restaurants and give them to the panhandlers rather than cash.
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Old 06-02-2012, 08:45 PM   #11
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That is one advantage to living in a small town. Never lived a town with more than 6000 (and I have lived in about a dozen or so). I have never in my life had a homeless encounter in the towns I have lived in. Now when I go to the big city for a ballgame they gather around and its like running through a gauntlet. Im not used to it at all so it makes me very uncomfortable and suspicious.
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Old 06-02-2012, 09:08 PM   #12
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Unfortunately there are plenty of scams out there. I have first hand knowledge because I was a volunteer cop for almost 10 years. I also volunteered at our community help center.

But, what I get from your post tmm99; you have a compassionate heart.
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Old 06-03-2012, 10:46 AM   #13
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I would have taken heart also Tmm.

As an aside...Just think of all the billions of our money that is given by our State Dept. to foreign nations to buy favors. Too bad that money cannot be used on our own people here that really need it. These people do not even get food stamps!

A nation is judged by the way they treat their animals and the sick.
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Old 06-03-2012, 11:33 AM   #14
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But, what I get from your post tmm99; you have a compassionate heart.
+1.
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Old 06-03-2012, 02:47 PM   #15
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Too bad that money cannot be used on our own people here that really need it. These people do not even get food stamps!

A nation is judged by the way they treat their animals and the sick.
Around here in Boston about 20,000 EBT cards, (food stamps) are 'lost' (sold for cash) every month and have to be replaced to the person who lost it.

Until recently EBTs could be used for liquor, tatoos, lottery tix and even on cruise ships. Now the new law just lets you use them at any ATM machine for cash. Oh yeah...you can buy food with them too!

Sorry, but my tax dollars have paid for my cynicsm.
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Old 06-03-2012, 05:03 PM   #16
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tmm99, you are a good person.

If it was me and she asked for money I'd walk away and ignore her. If she asked me as she did you, I would have done the same as you did. I'm surprised what she asked you to do and that she actually gave you her wallet, that's the part that would have told me to do it. Scam? I don;t know, maybe she's just being honest and wants someone to help her.
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Old 06-03-2012, 05:17 PM   #17
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TMM Stick to your instincts. Helping somebody out will help you as well.
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Old 06-03-2012, 05:54 PM   #18
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This is a scam, but a pretty harmless one. The homeless person knows her system has a better success rate that "Hi, would you please go in the store and buy me a roast chicken?" She knew you wouldn't use her money.

It was nice of you nonetheless.

Also nothing could induce me to take a stranger's wallet. "That's him officer!"

Sorry that life has made me so cynical.
+1
I expected to hear, that you were writing from jail, you are very kind! I would not take anyone's wallet! Maybe I would get her the chicken on the way out.
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Old 06-03-2012, 06:05 PM   #19
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Even if it was a scam, how sad that a 70+ woman would choose to do such a thing - whether from need or? It plain upsets me to see the homeless elderly.
I don't see how this is classed as a scam. The lady asked the OP to help her to buy some food. At no point (apparently) did she ask for anything else, other than a few moments of the OP's time. The OP decided to go above and beyond. Even if the lady waited for the OP to leave and then walked over to a late-model Cadillac in the supermarket car park which she then drove to her 4,000 square foot home in the suburbs, at no point has the OP done anything (apart from donating shopping time) that wasn't entirely in the his or her imagination.

(This does not mean that I don't think that the lady is very clever at manipulating people's feelings. But when you do something charitable, do you really insist on proof of suffering before you pony up? Most of us don't. I don't.)
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Old 06-03-2012, 07:18 PM   #20
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That is one advantage to living in a small town. Never lived a town with more than 6000 (and I have lived in about a dozen or so). I have never in my life had a homeless encounter in the towns I have lived in. Now when I go to the big city for a ballgame they gather around and its like running through a gauntlet. Im not used to it at all so it makes me very uncomfortable and suspicious.
I think one difference is that in small towns, a homeless person will be identified, and be given the help that they need. Social services aren't overrun with applicants like in big cities. Public housing is often well under capacity. The lower cost of living makes government benefits go a lot further. Change some of those variables, and there would be a significant homeless population in small towns as well.
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