Point blank here… I try not to judge people. My responsibility to my fellow man is to help them, not judge them or try to dictate to them. They are old enough to decide what is more important to them - food, alcohol, smokes. If I have cash on me, I will give it to them.
I have been lectured more times than I can count about giving street beggars money and my response is always the same. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You do not know for a fact they are going to spend the money on smokes or alcohol. Ever cross your mind that they may be smoking cigarettes they picked out of public ashtrays? Or from the side of the road or sidewalks?
I used to hold that view until we bought a farm that had an outbuilding with a room in it someone had lived in and we let a homeless person we met through a friend stay there. I learned a lot from him, not the least of which is that there's a network of people who make it their business to live off of others. He'd gone to someone in Richmond who helped others learn how to panhandle effectively and bragged about it one night when he'd been drinking. Not surprisingly he was an alcoholic and in the two months he was with us he was in the hospital twice. I made a couple of calls and discovered that he'd been 'in the system' in detox at least a dozen times, enough times that he wasn't welcome at the shelter that was attached to it anymore. There are other shelters he could go to, so no one thinks he was left without resource. At the point that I told him I didn't want addicts around my son he disappeared. It made me really sad, but you can't help people who won't help themselves. I won't give them money, period, after that experience. I'll give them food, I'll donate clothing, especially outerwear, but that's the extent of it for me.
When it comes to homelessness I think a big part of what needs to be addressed is addiction and mental illness. Please don't think that I'm saying that every person suffers one of those maladies, I don't mean to say that, but I think it's fairly prevalent and when Reagan cut mental health funding and everyone bought into the 'free everyone from institutions' line, I think it left a sector of the population with very few options.
I cannot +1 Valthazar’s post enough. It is one of my greatest gripes (along with the whole ‘why the hell are you adopting from another country when there are so many children needing loving homes in the US?!’ gripe) simply because people ignore the starving here in the states. They ignore the homeless here in the states. They ignore those living in conditions that rival 3rd world countries. They simply turn a blind eye to it… or even worse… make the demeaning comments about the people being too lazy or too entitled to work. It irritates the shit out of me because I am a firm believer in taking care of your own before trying to take care of everyone else.
Have you tried to adopt a baby in this country? Not to go entirely OT (even as I do so :) ), but I know several people who have and it's a loooooong process. I also think that many Americans are ignorant of just how many kids end up in the foster care system in this country because people assume there aren't a ton of kids waiting. Couple those things with the horrific conditions some children live in in other countries, and I can see why people adopt from other countries. No one is shining a spotlight on the horrific conditions some children live in in this country because it doesn't garner news ratings and it's not popular with the people who have very deep pockets when it comes to campaign contributions, let alone the people who tout smaller government.[/quote]
Yes, I have donated to other countries on occasion. But the exception has always been after a tragedy (the tsunami, the earthquake in Japan, his last storm that hit the Philippines). Humanitarian aide to another country is all fine and good - but being that I live in the US, I believe that I should be helping those that are here.
I've always struggled with this one. I want to help people, I really do, but it feels selfish to say that I'll only help people who fit into the Us in the Us vs. Them paradigm. My son and I have had some fascinating discussions about things like this and foreign aid and what actually helps people as opposed to just throwing money at them. I wish I had a solid opinion in one direction or the other. I think the first step is revealing the true conditions that some Americans live in, no matter how much a large percentage of Americans want to ignore them and pretend that they can just 'pull themselves up by their bootstraps'. Once you put a human face on that theory and actually look into it deeper than idealism, you discover that while that's true of some people, it's definitely not true of all of them, or even most of them.