Poverty and extravagance. What a sad world.

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by LucyJ, May 2, 2014.

  1. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Just back from NYC.

    This trip there were people collecting money around Times Square for homeless persons. There was a 27 year old man on 5th Avenue, holding a piece of cardboard with 'Please Help' written on it. He was the same age as my son, also homeless but through choice. I asked him how he got to be in this mess but he seemed spaced out (so there's your answer I suppose). I thought about his parents. A few blocks down from him there was a huge toyshop, Schwartz?, selling stuffed cuddly animals for $5000. What's wrong with society when there are people begging for small change to get a coffee and, in the same street, people spending $5000 on a cuddly toy for their kid? The world's gone mad.

    I've been looking up info about homelessness in NYC since I got home. The figures are shocking. In the UK figures are growing too, as changes to social security payments mean people can no longer afford to pay rent. Here, wealthy foreign buyers are spending millions on exclusive apartments in London while local families rely on food handouts and are being made homeless.

    I can't really comment on this. I don't see any answers. It makes me angry.
  2. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

  3. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    I think I have gotten more confused about homelessness, not less, since my son became homeless. He, and all of his homeless community, choose this...they see it as urban adventure, camping, self reliance, sticking it to the man.

    I assume a lot of folks are homeless without making that choice, but the window I"ve got has made the whole issue weirder and more confusing.
  4. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My son's reason for choosing homelessness is that he says it allows him to be 'free'. Free from work, bills, money and everything else, just surviving from day to day on what he can scavenge. I don't really get it. He seems to be trapped in his lifestyle, not free. I can't imagine living as he does and I can't imagine living on the streets with no home to go to. It makes me feel cold and exhausted just thinking about it. I think a lot of people are homeless through no choice of their own. That must be so awful and so hopeless. We stayed in a nice hotel when we were away, but it's still lovely to come back to our own home. Home is where the heart is, so they say. Where's your heart if you have no home?
  5. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    My son is homeless because he can't/won't/doesn't follow any rules. Anywhere.

    He doesn't like to follow rules. He doesn't like responsibility. Is it because he can't? Or won't? I don't know, and does it really matter?

    He won't get help or accept help to change. He takes one step toward change and then self-sabotages.

    Is this "just" addiction? I don't know.

    I think back to when he was little and he said, more than once: Mommy, I don't want to grow up.

    It's chilling now to recall those words. And he hasn't.

    I believe there are many people who are temporarily homeless or situationally homeless or don't want to be homeless. I want to help those people. They would likely accept a hand up, and then do something on their own.

    And there are people who would rather be homeless than do what it takes NOT to be homeless. That appears to be my son.

    I don't give money any more to people holding up signs. I do give money to organizations that help homeless people. I don't want anybody to be hungry. Ever.

    We can't get it, Lucy. We just aren't wired that way. We just aren't.
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  6. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    and mine.

    But it's also because he thinks society is fundamentally corrupt, destructive and evil and he doesn't want to be part of it. He's idealistic and unrealistic.
  7. dstc_99

    dstc_99 Well-Known Member

    I have a really hard time with homeless people. Not because I dont have empathy for them but because many of them have chosen this lifestyle. If you chose it then why should I give you my hard earned money to maintain your lifestyle.

    On the other hand some people have major mental issues that keep them from being functional. Many of them didnt chose the lifestyle but just aren't mentally capable of fixing their lifestyle.

    Personally I think people spend way to much money on stuff! Mainly because they are lazy and dont want to entertain themselves. They want a piece of equipment or a toy to do the entertaining.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I worked for a homeless shelter and it's not that I don't pity the homeless, but a good percentage who are homeless in the US are drug addicts.. There are entitlements that could help a homeless person. There are shelters, rehabs, places to stay, places to get food stamps, help, etc. but most of our residents came to our shelter just to sleep and went out in the morning and when talking frankly said "you can't be high in a shelter so I would rather not go to one." Hard to feel sorry for that. They blew off appts. from people who help him from social workers, employers who were interested in hiring them, and people who could offer food stamps, housing, etc. They just never showed up.

    Even worse are the fake homeless people of which there are many. In my town, which has literally no show of anyone homeless, I saw a man holding a sign that said, "Homeless. Anything helps!" I screeched my car brakes and turned around illegally to get to him. You have to understand that Americans are far more cynical than Europeans and much more conservative and not all are sympathetic at all to those who could probably be off the streets if they were willing to follow some rules. Many Americans thinks all homeless people are lazy, which I don't agree with, but I'm starting to think that their helplessness that they feel makes t hem stop trying to improve. And they usually do not find mental health professionals for motivation and/or treatment. Maybe there isn't much there. Maybe they don't know where to go to get free help. Maybe they just don't want to for their own reasons. Anyone, back to MY town which does have services.

    I am a bleeding heart and have often though I agree more with at least Canadians than the current in my opinion frightful views of most Americans. I am a bleeding heart. So I walked up to the man (suspiciously he did own a car...hmmmmmmmmm) and it was a cold nigiht. I have long stopped giving out money because I know most homeless people are addicts, but I did offer a meal since we were standing in front of a restaurant. He declined. Hmmmmmm. Anyhow, I had an old but clean blanket in my car so I gave it to him telling him to stay warm.

    A week later I heard that this man was scamming people by going to different areas in my town, holding up a homeless sign, and trying to panhandle money, which is illegal. In a huge city like NYC you can't really stop it. But in most suburbs and smaller towns, you barely see this homelessness because the cops will chase the people away. I guess the guy wasn't homeless, just greedy. He did get some money from people. He has a home now, or he did at least that week. It is called jail.

    I have a very good book for you to read, LucyJ. I don't remember who wrote it, but you can find it on Amazon easily since it is the only non-fiction book called "The Mole People." I read it in one night and it horrified me. It was all about a news reporter who had heard that some people live under the railroad tracks in NYC. She didn't believe it at first, but she found out it was true and she took tremendous risks to get to know those folks. It is a gripping true read. Not one of the people she spoke with were homeless because society outcasted them. Them outcasted themselves and the common thread was drugs, but the things they did to survive and to hide from society was amazing and scary and sad and made me cry. But there is nothing anyone can do to help such seriously ill people who don't really want help. I highly recommend this tremendous book to anybody. It's rather old, but it will speak to anyone with a child who is homeless or a drug addict.

    Here is a link to the book in case you want to purchase it:

    http://www.amazon.com/Mole-People-Life-Tunnels-Beneath-ebook/dp/B004D4YE1U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399071789&sr=8-1&keywords=the mole people

    Lucy, you are seeing the worst of our country. If you visited me right here, you'd see peace, tranquility, laughter, fun and prosperity (not tremendous wealth, but you wouldn't see those horrors). That is mostly in our big cities. And since working at the homeless shelter and trying hard to help the homeless and seeing that they refuse to do what you have to do to find a place for yourself, I understand better how somebody becomes homeless. And stays homeless. In spite of resources that more "normal" people use, who are down on their luck and want to rise above it.

    That doesn't mean there are no problems. When six million or more people live together there are going to be problems. That is why I always chose to live in airy, uncrowded, crime-free areas.

    When I worked in Chicago I used to see beggars on the street all the time. I was 21. I used to stuff $10 in their cups. I was very naive since most were druggies. Now I just offer a sandwich.

    The drug problem in the inner city is astronomically awful. Sonic's birthmother was on her fifth kid when she had Sonic. She did not have custody of any of them. We think she prostituted for drugs. She did drugs while pregnant. Sonic was born with cocaine in his system, syphillis, and a serious heart problem, which had to be operated on immediatally. He is lucky that his doctor was so good...he has had no heart problems since. As for his birthmother, drugs probably killed her by now. She had been sent to eleven rehab centers....ELEVEN...and had walked out of all of them. I don't tell this to Sonic. I just tell her she was very sick with drug addiction, which is an illness, and unable to care for any children at the time, but I'm sure that underneath her illness she is a great person because he is so great.

    It's a difficult problem to solve in such a big country. I do not feel we should not give our children the fruits of our labor just because others have nothing, sometimes do their own choices. I do not feel guilty that my kids have expensive toys. I don't see why that would be an issue...I would not give that money to the homeless anyway. They would use it for drugs.
    Last edited: May 2, 2014
  9. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Hey MWM, I love New York City! It's not that I think I saw the worst of your country, it's just that I'm far more aware of homeless people now because I always think of my son. New York is no different from London or Cardiff or Edinburgh when it comes to drug addicts and homelessness. (Have you seen the film 'Trainspotting'?) I do think the wealth in NYC is more 'in your face' maybe than some cities in the UK though and that contrast strikes me every time I visit. The UK is full of cynical people and apathy is rife. Some of our right-wing newspapers rant and rave about 'spongers' and Social Security rip-off scroungers and lazy unemployed people all the time. If anything I see far more cynicism here than anywhere. I agree that often money given to homeless persons will be spent on drugs, but that's not always the case and I did give to the organisation collecting in Times Square, because there must be genuine tragic cases of homelessness and I wouldn't want to not give to a worthy cause because of the risk that the money may be spent on drugs by someone whose case was not genuine. There were also plenty of youths doing stuff to get money, such as a young artist who made some amazing pictures with spray paints and tins and I bought 2 of his paintings.

    I'll get that book, it sounds really good, thanks.
  10. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Just ordered the book from Amazon.co.uk, sounds fascinating!
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    LucyJ, you have a good heart. I used to give more than I do now. I just don't trust the organizations to give the money to the people and, frankly, we are near US poverty level ourselves. That's maybe why I don't feel bad if I shower my kiddos with stuff that we saved for and sacrificed for. In the US these days, few people are rich. I am clueless as to why Americans are so indifferent, even accepting, of the lack of support given to kids from poverty, those who try very hard and struggle, and those who have had bad breaks. It's pretty much every man of himself. I could not see what you are seeing without my heart breaking. I'm afraid it would make me start stuffing cups again, thinking that even if they blow it on drugs, at least I meant well, which is how I thought as a kid. I am alarmed at the faction in our country who is anti-government and pretty much getting away with it, but I try not to think about it...radical acceptance, if you will.

    However, even if we had more resources...would they use it? There are poor people living in hellholes...and there are street people. They are NOT the same...not the ones who are satisfied living on the streets if that means they can continue their addictions. I so agree with you that the state of the world is sad right now..maybe every generation says that. But in my lifetime, in my opinion things have changed much for the worse at least in my eyes and especially, again only in my eyes, in my own country.

    But the world cycles. Things change. I try to keep myself focused on my own world...if I thought about everybody else, those who really suffer in war torn countries, I would go crazy. You have a good heart. Trust me, my views make me very much an outcast in my world...I would have fit in better had I been born in a more progressive country. This is not to say that other people are wrong. They just think differently than I do. I know I would enjoy life more if we had been born, say, in Canada. Although their healthcare system isn't perfect, it is scary for me to think of having no healthcare. And that is the plight of many people. And we have to pay for being sick, like we asked for it. I don't really understand that mindset at all...but, like I said, I am a real outcast here....lol. I believe in a strong, proactive government and that is extremely unpopular here...guess, as usual, I'm some kind of freak...lol. At the same time, I respect anyone's views :)

    I wish I could travel. My husband was in the Air Force and he has been all over the world. He lived in Germany for three years and really liked it there.

    PM me after you read the book. Or state it out here. It plain gave me the chills. I can not even imagine...I did not know...that this exists.
  12. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Lucy -

    I live in NY and work not far from Times Square. Every day, I pass people begging for money. I very rarely give to a person directly. I donate to organizations I believe in and participate in food drives, clothing drives, etc. Let me share a few true stories:

    Years ago, I gave $5 (which I didn't really have to spare at that time) to a young woman about my then age who claimed she'd been mugged and was trying to get back to her home in the Midwest. A week later, I saw her again, approaching someone else with the same story. I walked up and greeted her by asking how her trip home the previous week had turned out. She cursed me out and walked away, but the new "victim" didn't give her a dime.

    The newspapers a number of years ago tracked some of the people who begged on the streets in NYC. Several of them said they begged from April through November and then wintered in Florida! I can't afford to winter in Florida!

    When I was in college, I used to ride the subway from school to my job in midtown. Almost every day, a man would get on the train with a sign that read: "I am blind in one eye and my mother has multiple sclerosis." He would then sing a song and he had a lovely voice. I would often give him a quarter, even though it meant that I would not be able to have a cup of coffee that day. Years later, I saw him on another train line. He had the same sign, except that the "s" in has had been changed to a "d." I gave him $20.

    A couple of years ago, a young man followed me into a pizzeria and said he was hungry. I told him I'd buy him 2 slices and a drink and he responded that he'd rather have MacDonald's and could I just give him the cash! I said no, I really think he just wanted drugs.

    I grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx so I understand what it's like to be poor and on welfare, to not invite the kids from better neighborhoods home, to lie about your vacations and to not have in general. I understand about mental illness and substance abuse. My aunt had schizophrenia, my sister had border line personality disorder, my sister-in-law is a prescription pill abuser. If not for my 90 year old mother in law, my sister in law would probably be homeless and on the streets.

    While there are truly needy people in NYC, there are services which go around looking for them to offer help. I sometimes give money to individuals I see. If a man's sign says he's a veteran, and he looks the right age, I'll give him money. I've pointed people out to the cops so they can help them.

    I really think, though, that based on my lifetime of living and working in and around NYC, that many beggars are just scam artists.
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  13. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    Thanks for sharing those stories with me Svengandhi. No doubt those scams are the same the world over. Isn't it a shame we have to be so cynical and so dubious about helping people who appear to be in need.

    In the UK we have 'The Big Issue', this is a magazine that can only be sold by homeless people on the streets. They buy the magazines for half the face value and then are allocated 'pitches' and sell the magazines for the full cost. They wear vests which say 'working not begging'. I'm still dubious about buying these magazines as probably at least a portion of the money is spent on heroin. Some of my friends buy regularly from the same big issue vendor, others avoid them and refuse to ever give anything.

    Recently in the UK we have a large number of East European nationals busking and begging on the streets. This is due to the free movement of people in the EU. More countries seem to join this every year. I have read a lot of negative reports about the scams operated as big business by some Eastern Europeans settling here and I won't give any money to these.

    It's all pretty sad and, whether genuine or not, these people still touch my heart because now I have direct experience of a loved one being homeless, so it's impossible for me to just walk past and ignore it all without it affecting me. If it is just a scam then it's still a pretty crap way to spend your life. It would destroy me to beg money from other people on the street. I would lose all self-respect.
  14. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

  15. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Home is where the heart is, so they say. Where's your heart if you have no home?

    That is such a profound question! I might make a cross stitch out of it.

    I am really interested in what everyone else has said but I have taken night medications and cant form coherent sentences right now....lol
  16. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    My homeless son called me tonight. Said he was doing day labor when he was needed. Sounded like he was walking. Never told me where he is sleeping tonight and I did not asked. Said he had no money until SSD comes on Tuesday. As he was walking he came upon a pizza carry out place. They were advertising a large pizza for 5.99. He asked me if he went in would I buy him a pizza by giving them my debit number. He said that pizza would last him provided no beggars wanted any. I thought about and finally said yes and the pizza guy filled the order. Should I have done this? I don't know. Guess it is the mother in us. He used to call and asked me to mail him food or send MRE's. So sad that he lives this way. Breaks my heart. This is so hard.

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  17. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    Annie -

    As long as I could verify the pizza place was legitimate, I would have done the same thing you did. I hope you gave the debit number to the store owner and not your son. It sounds like your son may be on a path back up and I hope it continues.
  18. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    So sorry Annie.
    I would have done the same as you.
    I hope your son finds his way back from this life.
    That's one of the things that I find most depressing about my son's life. I look into the future and can't see anything other than a homeless middle-aged man, made old before his time, pushing a shopping cart full of his possessions.

    This sounds like my son - he speaks about "homeless people" as if he isn't one of them. I wonder sometimes what self-perception he has, how does he see himself and think of himself?

    Hope you have a good day and spend it doing something that makes you happy.
  19. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    I did not give him my debit number. He put the pizza guy on the phone. I checked this morning and the pizza place did post it. I would never done it if I had not heard all the employees in the background taking orders. Just hope the pizza guy was not a friend of his. I don't normally use a debit card at restaurants. I have a good friend who called in a large order for her company, went to the drive thru and paid, the next day she discovered the nice employee had used her acct no to pay her 250.00 cell phone bill.

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  20. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    Had not heard anything from my son in a week. I sent him a text last Thursday just asking how he was. No response. Same thing last Friday night. So I called him. We talked one minute then he started on me about "family resources" not helping him etc. I told him I did not call to argue and that I simply wanted to know how he was. He told me that everything I am not doing for him will come back to haunt me and hung up. He is homeless 2300 miles away from me and this learning to detach is very hard....but I will keep it up. Will not be calling him for awhile.

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