Helping: How It’s Done

Yesterday a friend told me about a program that was recently proposed to help the homeless in Santa Barbara. Instead of giving money to the homeless, one gives it to an organization designed to distribute cash to those in need.

I said I wondered whether someone might catch on to this, and decide to come and take all the money by force.

My friend said that the plan had failed anyway; nobody wants to do that. Apparently if one has a dollar to spare, it takes some direct confrontation to him or her to part with it. I’m not surprised, much less self-righteous, since I think that’s true of me. But this is how a society takes its needy and disenfranchised, and turns them into beggars.

Ironically, the City of Santa Barbara recently considered a $50,000 proposal to rotate sidewalk benches on State Street, to make it slightly less comfortable for “panhandlers” to speak to passersby while seated on thereon. The benches would be perpendicular to the sidewalk, so that people would have to turn their heads to look at pedestrians while speaking to them. The benches are set in the concrete, hence the cost. I thought this was pretty stupid, especially considering how much food could be provided for $50,000.

Here’s an article that explains the issue better than I have.

And here’s one that describes recent City Hall debate over providing a warm shelter. Some of the argument against helping is just mind-boggling. In essence, if the City helps the destitute and lost who are here now, more will come.

A man in India has a beautiful approach to the conundrum. His name is Narayanan Krishnan and you can click here to watch a short CNN video about him on youtube.