[Hpn] Handouts won't be salvation of homeless

Dave and Deb Ward dlwdaw@hotmail.com
Thu, 30 Jan 2003 13:18:23 -0500


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<LI><A target=_new href="http://discuss.pittsburghlive.com/viewforum.php?f=8">Discuss this column</A><BR><FONT size=-1>Handouts won't be salvation of homeless</FONT> 
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<P><A href="http://www.1800909trib.com/searchzips.php"><IMG height=50 alt=Subscribe hspace=0 src="http://www.pittsburghlive.com/images/icon_subscribe4.gif" width=150 vspace=3 border=0></A> </P></LI></FONT></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><FONT color=#888888 size=-1><B>By <A href="mailto:dvassilaros@tribweb.com">Dimitri Vassilaros</A><BR>TRIBUNE-REVIEW<BR></B><I>Tuesday, January 28, 2003</I> </FONT>
<P><IMG height=75 hspace=5 src="http://www.pittsburghlive.com/mugshots/dvassilaros.jpg" width=50 align=left vspace=5 border=1>Boycott the so-called homeless. It's for their own good  ours, too. If you do not give them handouts, they might be more motivated to get work. 
<P>Have you ever fed a stray cat? God love you; your heart was in the right place. But what happened the next day? Chances are that cat came back for another handout. And the day after, and the day after that. If you do the same with people who choose to live like strays, you are not helping to motivate them to get up from their favorite corners and get on with their lives. 
<P>Stray cats have an excuse. They do not have owners who care for them. The strays some call "the homeless" are not animals. They are human beings. Let's start treating them like adults instead of feral felines. 
<P>In this age of compassionate conservatism, the most compassionate thing you can do for a grown-up is to treat him like a grown-up. Can anyone say "tough love"? Handing out money to anyone with a sob story might only help him buy more booze or drugs or whatever else he chooses to squander your generosity on. 
<P>If the free money dried up, enlightened self-interest could force the homeless to take better care of themselves, and to look for work. Don't tell me they need job training before they start the job hunt. How much job training do you need to do heavy lifting or push a broom? 
<P>"Some small percentage might get work," says Wes E. Kerlin, director of social services for the Salvation Army. Some could work in day labor pools, but most are not be employable, he says. "They do not get up on time. They would not show up. They are not sustained in their focus for work. They do not have a recent work history. These have not had work for 15 or 20 years." 
<P>Still, not too many look as though they've missed meals. Better than half could be receiving federal Supplemental Security Income, because of alcohol, drug or mental health issues, Kerlin says. 
<P>The panhandlers provide a great public service to some of our well-meaning friends and neighbors. Maybe you are one of those misguided souls who feels good about helping the homeless, even if what the homeless really need is for you to stop enabling them. 
<P>Tough love seldom feels warm and fuzzy. 
<P>Why does it seem so few of Pittsburgh's down-and-outers get up and get lives? 
<P>About 15 individuals throughout the Downtown prefer to remain outside in sub-zero weather because they find the homeless shelters confining and do not like the rules prohibiting smoking, drinking and drugging, Kerlin says. 
<P>The Salvation Army and other worthy organizations do everything they can to salvage the souls of the homeless. Few want to be saved. 
<P>"A rough percentage of those who want to be clean and sober is 10 to 15 percent. For the rest, the fear of becoming clean and sober outweighs the benefits of being clean and sober. It seems like an insurmountable fear. (The homeless addict) understands it rationally, but not emotionally," Kerlin says. 
<P>Instead of putting your bucks into the cups of the homeless and other panhandlers, call the Salvation Army at (412) 394-4800 and ask where you can send a donation or how you can donate your time to be of real service. 
<P>"It's a problem that does not go away," Kerlin says of the homeless. 
<P>As long as the enablers contribute to making a bad situation worse, why would it? 
<P><I>Dimitri Vassilaros can be reached at <A href="mailto:dvassilaros@tribweb.com">dvassilaros@tribweb.com</A> or (412) 380-5637</I></P></DIV></div><br clear=all><hr>MSN 8 helps <a href="http://g.msn.com/8HMFENUS/2752">ELIMINATE E-MAIL VIRUSES.</a> Get 2 months FREE*.</html>