Re: When the Homeless Use Humor to Fill Their Empty Cups (fwd)

Theodore Latham (
Wed, 08 Jul 1998 06:40:15 PDT


     I use to eat at St. Anthony's myself while homeless in San 
Francisco during the summer of '97. I knew the Food Stamp cuts would 
have a drastic impact on the thousands of homeless people all over San 
Francisco and the rest of the Bay. Frankly, I'm glad some of the 
panhandling homeless can still freely exhibit traits like humor, and 
marketing (of themselves), despite the fact that their situations have 
worsened. If I became homeless again today, I would not return to San 
Francisco, simply because the Food Stamps are not readily available 
anymore and I could not bear to stand in St. Anthony's or Glide's 
feeding lines if they have now increased in length. 3,000 people served 
by 1 organization who's serving hours are between 12:00 & 1:30 p.m. (if 
they haven't changed) is ridiculous wouldn't you agree? Nuff Said!


Tedrico Latham

Your Informative Homelessness Resource Link!
P.O. Box 514 Rich Square, NC 27869 (252)539-4228

"P. Myers" <> wrote:
>what do we think of this?  comments?  Pat Myers
>"In the depth of winter, I finally
>    learned that, within me lay an
>               invincible summer."
>                      Albert Camus
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 13:34:15 PDT
>Subject: When the Homeless Use Humor to Fill Their Empty Cups
>   He stands on a corner near Union Square, one of many homeless men -  
>and a few women - appealing for money on a summer weekend. But instead 
>of printing a generic ``Homeless and hungry'' request on cardboard, he 
>lightens his plea with humor, calling out, ``Spare some change for the 
>residentially challenged?'' 
>   A block away, another needy man rattles coins in his paper cup and  
>holds a sign bearing a joking message: ``My wife's been kidnapped. I'm 
>short 98 for ransom.'' Nearby, a third man also tries for laughs by 
>waving a colorful whale hand puppet - and a cup - at pedestrians. 
>   Humor is not typically the stock-in-trade of the dispossessed. But  
>like merchants seeking to attract customers with advertising jingles, 
>these desperate citizens of the street hope their ploys will capture 
>the attention - and money - of shoppers, tourists, and 
>   Summer is the season when the homeless become nearly invisible in  
>many American cities. But here in San Francisco, where they number 
>between 12,000 and 17,000, their conspicuous presence serves as an 
>uncomfortable reminder of two vastly different Americas. Despite a 
>decade of prosperity, the rising tide has clearly not lifted all 
>   Just ask Charlene Tschirhart, director of donor services for St.  
>Anthony Foundation here. On a single day last month, her organization 
>served hot meals to 3,000 people. 
>   ``The Dow Jones looks so good,'' she says. ``But in the same year  
>that we had such an economic boom, Congress cut food stamps. Isn't 
>that an incredible statement of our values?'' 
>   She adds, ``There's more discouragement and more despair among the  
>poor, and more a feeling of alienation that the community out there 
>just doesn't get it.'' 
>   In the past two years, 4,000 units of public housing have been  
>demolished here, the Coalition on Homelessness reports. During the 
>same period, 1,700 residents have lost disability benefits under the 
>Contract With America. And rents have skyrocketed, with vacancy rates 
>under 1 percent for even the cheapest single-room-occupancy hotels. 
>   Problems like these exist in many cities, of course. Fourteen  
>percent of Americans, Ms. Tschirhart notes, live below the poverty 
>level - $16,700 a year for a family of four. ``I'm always amazed that 
>we don't see more people on the streets,'' she says. 
>   To Americans with compassion fatigue, she says, ``If you're tired  
>of looking at the poor, imagine how incredibly difficult it is to be 
>the person who is poor, trying to figure out how to get the next meal, 
>get housing and health care, and deal with loneliness. Poverty is so 
>   Still, for pedestrians walking a gantlet of outstretched hands,  
>sidewalk appeals raise difficult questions: To give or not to give? If 
>so, how much, and to whom? Not all donations go for food or rent, as 
>one unkempt man on Powell Street admits. His sign reads: ``Why lie? 
>Need a beer.'' Financing addiction is not what most donors have in 
>   It will take more than quarters and dollar bills stuffed into  
>Styrofoam cups to clear sidewalks and shelters. As Tschirhart puts it, 
>``We need to address this not just for the poor but for society. We 
>don't want to continue this way.'' 
>   Addressing the problem of homelessness will require a sustained  
>national debate on housing policies, livable wages, and affordable 
>health care. It will mean not just looking up approvingly at a 
>sky-high stock market but also looking down compassionately at the 
>ragged survivors on the street, including those who mask despair with 
>humor as they try to stay afloat for yet another day. 

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