Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Homeless Vet - Will Work for Food or Cash"

You've seen them on street corners or standing on the traffic island at stop lights, hoping to catch your attention to maybe offer them an odd job or perhaps throw a couple of bucks to them out of pity.  You probably just ignore them, trying not to make eye contact until the light turns green and you can be on your way.  A very few drivers will roll their window down and beckon the individual over and pass them a little cash and maybe offer them a word of encouragement; fewer still will actually make an offer of  doing some work in exchange for a reasonable cash payment or even a decent meal.  Most people, I think, don't like seeing these men with their signs as they go about their lives - they make them feel uncomfortable.  Well you know what - I don't think the men with the signs are very happy about being there, either.

But of course they have to be there, because they have no other place to go to and they have no other way of trying to make a buck, so they stand there with their signs and hope for some kindness.  But what they are more likely to get is busted by the local cops for illegally "advertising" for work.  So they get a summons to court for their infraction, and if they show up they get a fine, which of course they can't pay because, you know, they don't have any money, so they go to jail.  Or they ignore the summons in which case an arrest warrant is issued for "failure to appear" and they go to jail with no hope for making bail, because, yes that's right, they have no money.

So they may be off the streets for a while, courtesy of the county jail, but after a while they are back again with their signs because, as I said before, they have no other place to be and no other way of making a "living" (if you can call it that).  And so the cycle goes. 

This is just one of the ways that our society systematically screws the disadvantaged - don't even get me started about the banks, credit card companies and "pay day lenders" that prey on the "down and out" segment of society.  I read a statement in a column recently that says it all: "Before we can "do something" for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them".  Amen.

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