I understand societies' image of the ever growing homeless population in America. No matter where one goes, whether it is running errands in your respective hometown or on vacation in another state, just about every corner has a panhandler asking for money. With the signs in which you or I see, we don't take the time to stop and ask panhandlers what their stories are considering the signs are so vague when asking for help. Our busy lives and lack of money due to financial struggles of our own prevent us from handing out money to panhandlers.
While I or anyone else are not able to hand out money as though it grows on trees, there are entities such as the Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul who provide sack lunches and hot meals to the homeless population. Churches as well create a fund for the homeless but rather than give the funds directly to the homeless population the funds go to The Salvation Army and St. Vincent De Paul for the programs provided to assist the homeless. Every state, as well, has shelters for the homeless to rest their weary eyes but not all prefer to sleep in a shelter. A vast majority of the homeless population prefer to sleep on the streets or panhandle and pay for a motel room.
As police departments will warn, not all panhandlers tell the truth when begging for money. The money in which people give them generally goes to bad habits such as drugs or alcohol with the occasional renting of a motel room so as not to sleep on the streets or at a shelter for one night. In fact, panhandling has gotten to the point of aggressiveness. Homeless people will approach people going in and out of stores or getting in and out of their vehicles demanding money to as to get their next drug or alcohol fix. Which concerns police departments when it comes to the general publics safety.
Although safety and giving money is an issue today, what we as a society are forgetting about is the homeless veterans. A vast majority of vets are coming home or have come home with some form of PTSD. Rather than the VA or other government agencies helping our vets to gain the strength they need and be productive in civilian life, they're allowing the men and woman who sacrificed so much for our country fall through the cracks only to end up living on the streets. I'm not big on giving money to just any panhandler but I certainly would give my last five dollars to a veteran in need.
Although veterans are very important, they're not the only ones falling through the cracks of society. The economy is getting worse by the day and families are losing everything in which they own due to not being able to keep up with financial obligations from lack of wages from employers. It's one thing to be employed and take care of financial obligations but when employers aren't raising employees wages to meet the cost of living it makes for hard times. Hard times usually mean a family's next home will be the streets. Which is becoming crueler by the day and depending on where these families and veterans live, very scary and unpredictable.
I for one do not have to imagine what it is like to live on the streets (slept in my vehicle) or panhandle. I lived it, several times over. Being homeless like I was, I made sure to keep myself clean and well groomed. So to see me on a corner, flying a sign and asking for help, one would question my intentions and wonder if I were actually homeless. At the time, yes, I was homeless and until I found work, panhandling was my only source of eating and renting a motel room for a night or two just to get out of my vehicle. Now, I have a home to call my own, a full-time job at an assisted living facility and am working part time writing articles for Vocal.Media.
What is not seen, and I certainly don't understand myself, is why the homeless population doesn't have a strong will to get a job or acquire job training and work hard to get out of the situation in which they are in. I find the occasional panhandling okay but to make a career out of it due to lack of self-respect is beyond me. I live by the motto of, "No one owes me anything. I owe it to myself to work hard so as to make a life, productively speaking, for myself."
The only thing in which I would ask is be safe, be aware of your surroundings and if a person approaches you stating they are a vet and asking for help, ask for their DD214, which is honorable or not their discharge papers from the military. If the homeless person really is a vet they will either provide you with their DD214 or a government issued ID along with their dog tags. If neither is provided politely tell them you are unable to help them at that time. It's better to protect the money in which you have worked hard for than to give it to someone who has a drug or alcohol problem.