[Hpn] Give to PANHANDLERS, ex-homeless activist C. Rhodes advises Brown U. audience in Providence, RI, USA fw audience in Providence, RI, USA fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 15 Nov 2000 18:49:01 -0800 (PST)

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Email: "Catherine Rhodes" <homey@ids.net>

FWD  [Rhode Island, USA] Providence Journal - 14 Nov 2000


Catherine Rhodes tells a Brown and RISD audience that people fall victim to
stereotypes about the homeless and assume panhandlers are nothing but

Journal Staff Writer

     To Catherine Rhodes, who went from being homeless to becoming an
eloquent advocate for those who remain on the streets, the answer to the
bigger question -- what to do about homelessness -- isn't easy.

     But to the question posed last night at a panel discussion on
panhandling -- "to give or not to give" -- the answer, she says, is simple.

     "Give," Rhodes said, "and give as much as you can; and let God worry
about the rest."

     All too often, she says, people fall victim to stereotypes about the
homeless and assume that panhandlers are nothing but drunks looking for
enough money to buy another bottle of booze.

     For one thing, Rhodes said, it's just not true; and, quoting one
homeless man who once conceded that "I drink because when they kick me it
doesn't hurt so hard," called on the public to avoid being too judgmental.

     Rhodes was one of five panelists -- including three former homeless
people -- who discussed the issue last night at a meeting of the Brown
University-Rhode Island School of Design Hillel Foundation.

     All five panelists agreed that panhandling, for the vast majority of
those who practice it, is usually undertaken only as a last resort, and
that people who might be reluctant to provide a helping hand should not
fall victim to stereotypes.

     The unfortunate reality, Rhodes says, is that many people who are
homeless are too proud to beg at all and have resigned themselves to
suffering in silence.

     But whether a homeless person begs or not, she says, society has an
obligation to do whatever it can to help ease the pain.

     Rhodes notes that people have been forced to beg throughout history in
virtually every society.

     What seems to be different today, she suggests, is that those of us
who live in the richest country in the world either no longer want to put
up with people who beg or "almost want to criminalize" the practice.

     Rhodes says that one of the state's biggest problems is that there is
simply not enough affordable housing.

     Rents in Providence, she says, have skyrocketed over the years -- even
forcing people with minimum-wage jobs onto the street.

     Rhodes says that contrary to popular belief, as many 90 percent of the
people in the homeless shelters throughout the state have jobs. They just
don't make enough money, she says, to pay rents of $600 or $700 and still
feed their families.

     Ever since the Reagan administration, when the federal government
started getting out of the business of building affordable housing, she
says, minimum-wage workers have found that they are paying as much as 80
percent to 90 percent of their incomes for rent.

     What happens, she says, is that they soon must choose between eating
or paying the landlord, and when they fall far enough behind in their rents
they and their children end up in the street.

     Rhodes says this homelessness is inexcusable at a time when the nation
is enjoying huge government surpluses.


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SEE ALSO for more on the work of People To End Homelessenss:

TENT CITY at RI Statehouse - People to End Homelessness PROTEST

Catherine Rhodes, PETH coordinator <homey@ids.net>
Member of Homeless Person's Network
131 Washington Street, Suite 306
Providence, RI 02903
Phone (401) 351-5252

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