Monday, September 28, 2009

Bums

Anyone who works downtown can appreciate Peter Bagge's take on this bi-coastal phenomena that was originally published in the April 2007 ish of Reason magazine (and also included in his Everybody Is Stupid Except For Me Fantagraphic Books collection). Bagge's observations about Seattle's homeless ring just as true for Baltimore - or any major metropolitan area, for that matter; far from a rant, his panels offer some quite cogent facts about the people and the problem.


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The point that really resonated with me, was "...there are so many charities and agencies that are ready and eager to help that it' almost impossible for anyone to go hungry in the U.S. these days..." In the one-block radius around where I work there are three churches, two Catholic charity organizations, and a soup kitchen offering services to the homeless, including rides to shelters; so when I'm stopped on the street and asked for money, I always question what it's for. Naturally, the cynical side of me suspects it's for some "vice" (e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, drugs); in other words, a short-term fix to a long-term problem. Plus some of these people are downright rude, turning what should be a plea for a hand-out into something that borders on a shakedown (one guy made me spill my coffee when he leaped in front of me to bark "Yo - 50 cents!"; I didn't know if it was a request or a statement). Thus I could totally relate to Bagge's description of his 10-block to work being "choked with crazy street people..." that "...all seemed to have an exaggerated sense of entitlement, putting on loud air guitar concerts while practically demanding change from passers-by..."

But Bagge does understand that most of these people suffer from one or more mental illnesses, which is a shame...but again, there are agencies to help the people who want help all around these areas. And stopping people walking to work and asking for hand-outs only gets local businesses to enlist the aid of law enforcement or security personnel to hassle these people and tell them not to loiter around their businesses or institutions, giving the poor souls already burdened with enough problems additional bad press and resentment.

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