Every day on the way home from work, walking through downtown Seattle, I pass this guy. He is maybe in his mid to late 30's (being on the streets REALLY ages you), and annoys the hell out of me. Tries his best to look as pathetic as he can, sits next to a street lamp and begs for money for food. I always walk past and tell him directions to a shelter--3 blocks down, one over, etc. Maybe he IS hungry. Maybe he wants booze or drugs. Who knows. I don't give him money. But it bothers me. So, I finally remembered this whilst in front of a computer. I looked up all of the places serving free meals. I printed out three downtown seattle maps. I put X's where the free food was, then wrote the days of the week and time of day they were available. Hot dinners, cold lunches, even vegan Sunday dinners. About 12 in total. I only wrote the ones where you are not required to attend a church service or AA meeting, only the ones with no strings attached. I learned that there are lots of places to get a free meal. Breakfast 7 days a week at one place, lunch and dinner at a variety of others.
Anyway. I compiled this, made several copies to keep at work for discharging homeless patients, and headed off with one copy in my purse. Today I stopped by this guy. I figure, if he takes the info and uses it, I have helped him. If he blows me off, he didn't want food anyway, and I don't have to feel bad about not giving him money, since he is not being truthful about why he wants it. I gave him the maps, showed him where he was on the map, told him there were free sandwiches being handed out RIGHT NOW only 3 blocks away. Then continued my trek to the bus stop. I looked back, saw him put the paper inside his coat, then ask the next guy coming by if he could spare a little change for some food.
Now I don't feel bad. I can walk past and know that there are better places for my money to go. Now, I don't EVER give change to people. I don't carry cash, mosty for that specific reason. I don't have to feel bad about not giving change if I don't HAVE any change to give. I give to food banks or shelters or places like that where I KNOW where the money is going, and that it will help someone.
I wonder if I should keep bringing my maps every day, and give him one every day he is there, and every day I walk past. Eventually he will either give up and go elsewhere, or maybe start getting food there. Who knows.