Charity Fail.

This is hard for me to admit, but I am not a truly charitable person. Oh, I give to the Food Bank. I donate my old stuff to charity. I shop at Value Village because a) I am cheap b) it benefits charities and c) it lessens my carbon footprint to buy what’s already been made once.  But when it comes to individuals begging on the street, I am  Judgey McJudgerson.

Part of this is that I have lived in this neighborhood for a long time. I know the guy panhandling outside Safeway spends his afternoons casing houses to grab bottles and grab whatever else he thinks he can resell that  he steals from their gardens and porches. The guy with the crutches outside the beer and wine store? I saw him walking without a limp an hour ago. He’s faking.

Part of me is ashamed that I don’t give people less fortunate  my hard-earned  money, but there’s an even bigger part of me that is not ashamed, because I am already using that money.

No, I don’t have any spare change. That’s my $1.99 slice of pizza and  that is my lunch. Three bucks in change? No, I don’t want to give it to someone on the street. I’m counting that money towards the grocery store  buy of rice, toilet paper, and ground beef. It’s not spare change.

For me, the worst is when people ask me for money when I’m doing car jockey stuff.  I recognize that there are people out there having  hard time. I recognize that I am not reasonable in my feelings about this.  But when I am doing my second job driving for the Co-op  (pays  for friends’ childrens’ education funds,  my retirement fund, etc.), I don’t think I ought to give to someone else what I earned fair and square. No.That money is earmarked.

And when a panhandler gets in my face and yells at me that he is sorry “your mother even spread her fucking legs”, I lose any latent desire to give money to those less fortunate. At all.

9 Comments to “Charity Fail.”

  1. By Beth, August 22, 2009 @ 9:01 am

    I never give change on the street. Since I’ve been in Van (8 years?), I’ve given maybe 3 times and later found out that I’d been duped 3 times. I resent being made the patsy.
    I feel sorry for the old rummies and the obvious mental patients but I know my quarter or dollar won’t help make them better. I respect the folks who work for it, so I’ll give money to buskers and I’ll leave my recylable bottles out where they can be scooped by the binners. I have no patience for the young ones with signs saying they need money for dope or beer. I work and my kids work to buy our own dope and beer and so can they.
    But the ones who get nasty and insult you if you don’t give – they are the special scurge of the city. Blame it on crack and keep walking – fast.

  2. By Liz, August 22, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    A couple points hit home, there, Beth. The binners and bottle guys are a whole other, well, I want to say subculture. That’s their job. It’s not glam, but it’s useful.

    Re the ‘blame it on crack’, I found myself in a surreal conversation awhile ago, remembering the ‘good old days’ when the addicts were mostly addicted to heroin, and not nearly so aggressive. Weird.

  3. By Arwen, August 22, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

    Yay, misogyny. Sorry you were attacked like that.

    I do give money (or often, food) to individuals; but they’re always people I have relationships of some sort with. They’ve almost always been older and booze-addicted or mentally ill, and there’s usually only one or two I’m seeing regularly. There are many mentally ill folks still out there after they closed Riverview, and they’re unlikely to be hired. I know it won’t help, really; it’s money that will likely go to addiction. I give it for the ability to make choice.

    But after you’ve been conned a few times it is really easy to be once bitten twice shy. I knew a young guy born with a silver spoon pretty far up his ass, who was getting money from parents, participating in welfare fraud, and used to panhandle for “fun”. That kind of shit stinks and makes me pretty careful, suspicious up front.

  4. By Erin, August 22, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

    Wow. That really sucks Liz – sorry you had to bear the brunt of someone’s addiction sickness.

    I won’t give money to people on the street, for several reasons. Once bitten, more than once. Also, I’m still somewhat underemployed, and with Phil not working we’re pinching pennies. I feel sorry for the elderly and mentally unstable. I don’t feel sorry for the street kids – most are bright, and could find work and get themselves straightened out if they tried. Many of my opinions were formed when I worked on DaVinci’s, and spent a lot of time in the DTES.

    I will, however, give money directly to charities like the Food Bank, or Union Gospel (when I have money to give). Over the past several years, when approached by homeless asking for money for food, I’ve offered to buy them food – but am usually turned down. Usually with a few choice words.

    Deep down, I’m truly sorry for anyone who has to live their life that way. It is heartbreaking.

  5. By stephanie, August 22, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

    That’s why I work with homeless animals.

  6. By Liz, August 22, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

    Arwen, I don’t have relationships with the panhandlers around here. I’m not worth their time unless I give them money. I have relationships with the binners, though.
    Erin, I’ve been turned down for food as well. In the end, it’s a terrible way to live, but I’m like you. I give to the charities.
    Stephanie, that sounds about right.

  7. By Robin, August 24, 2009 @ 5:30 am

    We have a lot of that down here in the DC area, too. My most shocking pan handle was an grandma looking lady who was playing a scheme in the target parking lot. I was so surprised. I’m used to younger folks around here giving you a sad story for change. The grandma just shocked me. One good thing about always using a debit card is that I really do never have cash on me. So, I’m telling the truth when I turn them down.

  8. By cheesefairy, August 24, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

    I have seen two (2) panhandlers in the Mizzle so this is totally a non-issue for me in the past three years.

    That said and when I lived in the west end, I didn’t much mind panhandlers. No harm in asking and I don’t really care why you’re asking, as long as I have the right to say no. Whether you buy drugs or a cheeseburger, if I decide to give you a buck, now it’s your buck and it’s none of my business how you spend it or what you figure you need it for, after all your priorities are your own.

    The kind that shout, chase you down the street, call you names while you’re in line for a bank machine..well those people make me uncomfortable. No doubt. I’m sorry that happened to you, Liz.

  9. By Liz, August 24, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

    Robin, that’s scary. We’re conditioned to trusting grandmothers.
    I don’t mind them asking as long as I have the right to say no and not be hassled, either, Cheesefairy.

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