Give To The Homeless, Commit a Crime?

Norman Watne

A television station in San Antonio, Texas, recently reported that a local councilman wants to make it a crime to give money to a beggar or homeless person on city streets. Those who open their wallets would be fined.

“If there’s no money for the panhandlers, the panhandlers will go away,” said Councilman John Clamp.

But some residents say what will go away is their right to give. “I think it is absolutely ludicrous to ticket someone for wanting to help out another human being,” one person commented online. “To me, that is the same as punishing someone for wanting to do the right thing.” Another wrote, “Whenever I am tempted to pass judgment over these people I ask myself how desperate would I have to be and how far would I have to fall before I would beg? Then I hand them a dollar and get on with my day.”

“You are all missing the point,” wrote another resident who said giving cash to “bums” was ill advised. “I used to give them money,” the writer continued, “until I started seeing them in the park drinking and smoking crack!” San Antonio Express-News columnist Victor Landa, however, questioned the practicality of the proposed law by asking, “Whose responsibility is it to be the street-level charity police?”    

I brought this subject up with some of the homeless people that I know around the Boston area, and one of them—let’s just call him Todd—made a good point when he had stated:

“First, if this is a free country, which it slowly turns out not to be, one should be able to give freely to anyone. Let’s throw that polititian on the street without anything, and see how long he’ll last without help. Also, while I do realize that many homeless use the money for alcohol and drugs, many are just hungry or want to pay for certain necessities. My bet is that congressman won’t last in office too long with a mentality like that.”

I agree with Todd. This is a free country, and to want to make it a crime to help someone who is less fortunate is a crime in itself. One must always look at the prospect that it could be them asking for help.

It is easy to turn the other way until it happens to us. To be homeless has got to be one of the most terrifying and lonely things that a person could experience. I am sure that it is not truly anyone’s will to be so. There are so many reasons why it happens and even if it is because of addiction, that is a sickness of the mind. My heart goes out to all humans experiencing less than total peace, love and unity. I choose not to judge and I would pay a fine before I would ever stop giving to those in need. It isn’t any of my business what they spend the money on, yet I hope that the simple, kind gesture of giving unconditionally will one day be enough for the person to break free. Giving is really quite selfish, anyway—it will always make you feel better than the recipient.

It is really sad that society and the people who are put in offices think that that they are above the lesser of us, the unfortunate among us, that they have to make things worse for the homeless and the poor. Like they are above any the poor and less fortunate. And we all are guilty of such terrible acts against our fellow man. Am I supposed to be proud to be an American when this is going on? Well I am not and never will be. This is supposed to be the land of the free. Since when? Prove that to me when politicians can propose such ludicrous laws as a ban on giving to the needy. I don’t see people running for a cure for poverty nor protesting against measures that discriminate against the poor and homeless.

It is a councilman’s position to assist the public in his official capicity for the best interest of the public. Even if a person is homeless, he/she is still part of the public. Instead of seeking ways to hinder them and make a tough time even tougher, the councilman should be seeking out ways to help them out of an adverse situation.

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