Don’t Feed the Bears

Posted: May 30, 2010 in Meandering Valley Thoughts

   It seems to me that there is a preponderance of prettily paid panhandlers in the Valley. Personally, I don’t pander to them since I pay taxes punctually whether it pleases me or not. I understand that there are many homeless people who have fallen on hard times and my heart goes out to them. But the point is that there are way too many of them to effectively relieve all of their suffering by giving handouts to the few with little pride and lots of nerve who stand beside the road with a cardboard signs.

    I don’t mind a portion of my tax dollars going to food and shelter foe the less fortunate amongst us. But I have never rolled down my window to give a beggar a buck because I don’t think it is fair of them to stand on the corner and try to make every one who drives by feel guilty and sorry for them. It makes the Valley less pleasant and reminds us continually not so much that there are homeless people but that there are people who have figured out that one out of about two hundred or so people who drive by are soft touches. It is a numbers game that they have nothing better to do than to stand around for a few hours and take advantage of .

   When you see the same person at the same corner for years, you know they must live somewhere in the area and that standing at that particular corner is their vocation. I was talking to a friend, Marc Green, about this last night and he told me a funny story about a friend of his in L.A. He said the guy built up a repore with a guy who panhandled on the same corner for years, giving him a little money or a sandwich from time to time. One time the beggar was gone for a few days and another one was in his place. So Marc’s friend stopped and asked the new guy if he knew what happened to the regular. The guy tells him that the regular is on vacation and that he is just holding the spot until his buddy got back. Marc said his friend was through with being a nice guy after hearing that.

   When Elaine worked at the Brass Faucet a few years ago, Hoppy, the one-legged Vietnam vet who works the northwest corner of Pines and Sprague, used to come in after his shift and play pull tabs with the money the soft touches gave him. He didn’t drink well whiskey, he had a more refined taste for Black Velvet.

   Besides pride, another thing most panhandlers lack is intelligence. Loose the dog or maybe the gut. Smoking on the job isn’t too bright nor is wearing expensive clothes even if they are dirty. And the “Have-to-be-honest-just-need-beer” sign isn’t funny any more. The one old gal that wears her coat over her backpack and makes you sweat just looking at her on hot days when she is bundled up in a down jacket and a winter cap is truly off her rocker. But so are the people who give her and the others a handout and keep them coming back for more.

   The only time I’ll give somebody money is when they come up to me in a parking lot and say they need a few bucks to get back to their hometown. I’ve heard it enough to know that it is most likely just another line, but I am always optimistic that I am helping a guy down on his luck and getting one more panhandler out of the Valley.

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