Don’t tell me I can’t help him

By From page A6 | July 24, 2014

There has been much debate over whether to give to panhandlers in Davis. Both sides have valid arguments.

However, there is one individual that I help on a regular basis. I strongly suspect that I know this person from when he was a lab technician where I used to work, but in his derelict state, it is hard to recognize him. He is unkempt and quite filthy and sad-looking.

I play my guitar and sing occasionally at the Davis Commons, just for fun, and when I see him there rummaging through the trash cans in search of food, I make a point of jumping up and giving him $5. Yes I am enabling him, but I think he is not going to get straight and on his feet without a massive amount of help. It is futile to think that he might do that, if only people will not enable him.

He is probably not mentally well, and most likely chemically or alcohol-dependent. He might stand a slim chance of rehabilitation only if someone invested many thousands of dollars into rehab for him, and gave him a tremendous amount of support.

He was a nice person when I knew him (if he is indeed who I think he is) and I cannot stand to see him rummage for food, and no one is going to tell me I cannot help him.

If The Enterprise will list some worthy organizations who help homeless people, I will be happy to donate to those as well, in equal amounts to my help for this man, who I think is named Peter.

I worry that people withhold support for individuals, but then do not donate to homeless advocate organizations either.

It is important, too, to press for a statewide approach to dealing with the homeless, to avoid the problem of creating magnets for homeless in communities doing the right thing. The wrong approach is rousting them out of encampments and saying to them in a firm, commanding tone, “Don’t be homeless!” And confiscating their meager possessions is just plain heartless.

Gabe Lewin

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