Sunday, September 09, 2007

Homeless veterans are everywhere, but who's counting?

My approach when dealing with "homeless vet" panhandlers is to ask specific questions which civilians are unlikely to know the answer to (ie. "what is a DD-214" or "what was your M.O.S.?") but would be easy for a veteran. If they can answer correctly I tend to give them something, if not they're liars. Of course answering correctly proves nothing, but it allows me to feel like I'm helping a veteran.

Actually I tend to be pretty generous with the homeless. When I was a teenager I saw an interview with C. Everett Koop who Surgeon General at the time. Somebody asked him if a beggar asked him for money to buy a drink, would he give it? To the surprise of the audience, he said that he would. Koop, a prominent Reagan era conservative reminded the audience that the pain and suffering of addiction was very real. To him, if someone could endure the shame of begging a stranger for alcohol, he probably needed it. That's not to say he wouldn't try to help the man fight his addiction if he was willing, but ultimately the issue of the moment was helping him get through the day, not feeling good about yourself because you refused to be an enabler.

It may be counterintuitive but in my gut I think Koop was right.

No comments: