Hiding The Poor

Christ famously said, in somewhat of a backhand slap at social organizers, philanthropists, eugenicists and the like, that “the poor you will always have with you.” Here in the peachy keen United States, the wealthy have the misfortune of being both entirely aware and entirely ignorant of the reality of Christ’s words. We are entirely aware of the numbers. Our media keeps us splendidly informed of the unemployment rate, the crime rate, the fact that 58.5% of Americans will spend at least one year below the poverty line, etc., etc. We know that poverty is a problem. And yet, chances are that we rarely — if ever — come into contact with a man living in poverty. We are entirely aware of the numbers, and we are woefully ignorant of the people.

So many poor, so few seen. This isn’t because they are hiding, though I won’t deny that rich people are frightening. No, first and foremost, we are hiding from them. The majority of Americans – about 75 percent – live in the suburbs. Since the 1950s,  suburbanization has essentially been a movement away from the poor, termed as movement away from crowds, from crime, and from pollution. This is not a thing to be immediately condemned — who wouldn’t seek a better quality of life for their family? But consequences are consequences. The situation as it stands now is this: Low income families live in the inner city, higher income families live outside of it.

To the secular mind, this may be no bad thing. After all, we can live away from the poor (and all the trouble poverty entails) and still do our part. We can practice charity with our PayPal accounts. But the Catholic is called to more. He is called to love the poor. He is called not to the emulation of the Gates Foundation, but to the emulation of Blessed Mother Theresa, who knelt down and embraced the leper. Actual, physical touch. Human contact. Real love. But we live in a world where those most suited to give alms and to love the poor must take a bus to find them.

But this ‘hiding from the poor’ is forgivable, largely because it is rectifiable. Take that bus. Work with Habit for Humanity. Donate time at a homeless shelter, a women’s shelter or a soup kitchen. Donate to a food bank. Go to the city, give your kids money for the beggars, and prayer cards too. Take a homeless man out for lunch. (God, please let an Ayn Rand fan read this and be disgusted.) We can work around our silly, anti-community communities. Absolutely unforgivable, however, is the effort to hide the poor, when we cover them up, and pretend they don’t exist. And oh, do we ever.

If I had a list of the top ten evils of the 21st century, anti-begging laws would be on it. They’re exactly what they sound like — laws forbidding begging in the wealthy neighborhoods of cities and suburban communities. In other words, they prevent people who need money from going where all the money is. I understand the rational, that beggars reduce the value of property, that they make people uncomfortable, that they are dirty — I just see it as the proper rationale for NOT having anti-begging laws. If the very sight of a beggar makes you uncomfortable, it’s because you should be giving him money. Has it never occurred to the creators of these laws — in all their hygienic, safety-firstic evil — that the proper answer to a beggar on your street is not an absence of the beggar, but an excess of charity? As Catholics, we need be aware of these laws, and we should fight them whenever we can. These fools would have thrown St. Francis out of town.

In fact, instead of anti-begging laws, I propose beggars assigned to specific suburban communities — pro-begging laws, one might say — to remind the wealthy that yes, the poor are still with you.

Just sayin.

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  • http://thecatholicsciencegeek.blogspot.com/ The Catholic Science Geek

    Though I live in one of the wealthiest towns in my area, I take the train and subway to school pretty much every day. I pass by a homeless shelter every day, ride the subway with homeless individuals, and see them camped out at the train station every morning and night. The difference between where I live and where I commute to is between night and day. It breaks my heart to see how the homeless are treated by some of the more fortunate. As you can see in one of my experiences below…people ignoring the homeless isn’t the worst I have seen. It’s terrible how easily so many of us can deem these people as anything less than human. I’ve often just wanted to take one of them to dinner or something…and maybe I will one day. I just wish I had the courage to do it now. Maybe little by little, I will keep building the courage to do it.

    Thank you for posting this reminder/call to charity.

  • Guest

    Good article and I see your point but I think you might be neglecting the fact that mental illness and drug usage plays a big part of inner-city poverty. I don’t think the solution to this is allowing people to beg in suburbs (as a parent I think I would have an obligation to raise my children in an environment where I would feel they are safe if i can, as my first responsibility is to them) and giving them money, but maybe giving more money to or volunteering with charitable organizations that offer these kinds of people the proper care for the things they struggle with. When I was in college (like, 1.5 years ago) I volunteered with an organization that brings food to the homeless in Cleveland and many of them do struggle with mental illness. They don’t need money thrown at them but people to care for them in the proper sort of medical environment.

    Ok so I might sound like I’m trying to be feisty but those are just my thoughts from my experience and as an avid reader of your blog I rarely disagree with you. You are an awesome writer and you write things that people need to hear right now. Way to be a very legit Catholic in a world that needs more of them : )

    • Elizabeth

      Agreed, Guest. I completely agree with this article and, at the same time, I do not stop for the beggars out of sheer fear for my safety. I’m a very small woman with three small children. I don’t go near strangers, not even one asking for directions. I may yell from afar if I can help from afar. I feel vulnerable. On one hand, I think most beggars are absolutely fine, but I am afraid to end up stopping for the few that are not. After reading Chesterton, I really admire him for giving to everyone. The few times I have given, I was literally cornered, afraid for my safety, and just hoping that they truly wanted money. I gave it, and it worked out. I’m glad I could help, and I most certainly did not get any personal warm, fuzzy, charitable feelings. So at least I wasn’t giving out of pride, I suppose!

      My husband, on the other hand, always gives, and I encourage him in that. I really admire him for it, and I also realize that he is a tall, strong man. While a gun could still harm a tall strong, man, he is generally more able to protect himself should a situation arise. It is a tough balance.

  • Corita

    I predict approximately 89 comments telling you how naive you are and that homeless people are a plague to businesses trying to operate and keep our economy going. Hell, maybe the American Papist will show up at your door to give you a proper “modern Catholic” education which in my experience of late has a requirement of also being a crazed, pro-business, anti-labor Republican.

    Just sayin.

    • Penny Farthing1893

      Actually, most of the Republicans who are pro-labor (just not for going along with any and all demands of public sector unions) are Catholic – Thaddeus McCotter, Gingrich, Ryan, etc. And guess what. You can be pro-business and pro-labor. Labor used to be pro-business. Most union *workers* still are, but the leadership has only their own interest in mind. Read Pope John Paul II’s encyclicals on labor/economics. They have the wonderful quality of sticking it to all sides.

  • Tammy Schmidt

    Yes… we must touch the poor around us – and that is easier said than done…. we’re in our cars, keeping schedules, blah blah blah.
    My friend is a better example than I will ever be. When she lived in Seattle she befriended a homeless man, who at first was taking vegetables from her community garden plot. She told him he could have the food, but he couldn’t take it – that’s stealing. But if he wanted to pull weeds or water the garden when he saw it… he could take all he wanted. Then she started taking him to lunch… for a sandwich and a coffee. She t0ld me that he was her best advisor in that time of her life. He shared much wisdom. Their relationship was a blessing.

  • PG

    Standing ovation on this one.

  • BadWolf

    You’ve just described my favorite aspect of Catholic teaching. Solidarity with the poor. Anyone who doesn’t identify with the poor shouldn’t self-identify as a Christian.

    • BadWolf

      Not that there isn’t room for improvement in anyone. I sure wish I could get up the courage to pull out my wallet every time a beggar asks me for “change for the bus”. The least we can do is not ignore them. I’m ashamed every time I feel I haven’t been as kind to the poor as I could’ve been.

  • Jmsteve4

    I just wanted to point out here that money is not necessarily used for good things. Which is why my friends dad gives out McDonalds gift cards and maps to the local Saint Vincent de Paul society’s soup kitchen. If I could pay to do that, I would. But right now, I’m still trying to figure out how to pay for this semester.
    It’s shocking though. I was telling someone how I didn’t want to live with more than I grew up with and that I would just give the extra money, if I had any, to charity or something, and he was seriosuly confused. Why wouldn’t I want to be rich? There’s so many cool things you can buy when you’re rich! I’m not sure if it’s just immaturity on his part or part of his values system, but I didn’t realize people though they needed all those things when there are so many who have nothing. Meanwhile, I’m not even supporting myself. I woulg love to look at those help a starving child commercials and help the whole country, but until I’m clearly out of debt to the school, I hope the 10% of my paychecks willl be enough.
    Meanwhile, I was wondering your guy’s opinion on this. When I see someone on the street corner, I act like I don’t so they don’t feel offended I’m not helping them. Is that selfish? When I need to be focused on pinching pennies at least until I graduate? It helps that I usually don’t have any cash anyways, but just wondering on opinions here.


      It’s not selfish. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money, and the reality the money will more likely be used for alcohol or drugs than it will be for food, especially if you’re in an area that provides services for the homeless.

      Eye-contact and acknowledgment are tricky — a lot of homeless are unstable and you just never know when they’re gonna snap. Also, eye-contact and guilt are exactly what the experienced panhandlers want. You make eye-contact around here, and they’ll follow you for a couple of blocks berating you if you don’t give them money.

  • Fisherman

    I dealt with this problem (not the homeless and poverty-stricken) a few days ago. Thanks for the article, helped clear my conscience.

  • Emily

    This is what it means to be Catholic. This is what it should mean to be human.

    My only concern is this, it is not always the most loving thing to give money to beggars in the street. I try, when I can, to offer food instead of money. But most refuse. Because there are places to get free food or help, so beggars are often looking for drug money.

    I always try to, at the very least, make eye contact and apologize that I have no money to give.

    • Cari

      None of the Corporal nor Spiritual Works of Mercy instruct us to give money to others. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. etc. When people tell me I need to give individuals money to help meet my duties as a Catholic, I’m both irritated and confused.
      Confused because I wonder how I missed that particular instruction, and irritated because I now need to wonder if by supplying a stranger money am I partially responsible for any sinful activities that will be pursued using that money?

      I absolutely agree that direct, hands-on contact with our brothers and sisters in need is the best way to help. When “the homeless” become Amanda and Malcolm and their children, we are far more likely to provide for them from our poverty and not our surplus. But I absolutely disagree that providing my children with dollar bills and prayer cards and allowing them to distribute these items to anyone who asks for it is a solution.

    • mary york

      This is truly a serious conundrum. So many of them are addicts. But, you are right that treating them with courtesy is good. In San Fran I had bought an addict diapers that she claimed she needed money for her child, and when I brought them back to her, she tossed them on the ground and said, “whatever”. It took everything I had not to yell at her.

      • TCISACW

        That’s a common scam among the female homeless population. They come up with some sob story about their children, or being an abused wife, and ask for money for formula or a taxi, but reject practical help.

        We have free health clinics, free mental health clinics, many food banks, shelters, free daily shower services, but the majority of the homeless reject most of these services because they’re trapped in the downward spiral of drug/alcohol addiction and/or untreated mental illness, or they’re the underbelly of the criminal class in this country. It’s a tragedy, and your heart breaks a thousand times a day, but you have to steel yourself every time you walk out your front door.

    • Anonymous

      Bless you, Emily, for making eye contact. By doing so you acknowledge the humanity of the person you encounter as a street beggar and show that you see the image of Jesus in that person. And when you judge, clearly you are not judging the state of that person’s soul but whether or not you can give genuine help to that person.

      We are often guilt-tripped by the parable of the Good Samaritan. There’s also a story of another Samaritan, an apocryphal story, in which this second Samaritan also stopped to assist someone at the side of the road who cried out. But this wasn’t a robber’s victim but a robber – maybe the down-and-out but not-yet-repentant Prodigal Son? – whose intended victim struggled and got away but not without first landing a few good blows on the robber. And when the Samaritan bent over to offer help to the wounded stranger, the robber tried to assault him. That Samaritan fled. Did the second Samaritan do wrong?

  • mary york

    I just want to point out that the anti-begging laws are not always so mean-spirited. Many, many of the homeless you see are seriously mentally ill, and they can be very dangerous. This is a fact that I learned the hard way in San Francisco.


      Yep. I live in SF, and the homeless situation is a growing problem, especially in light of the current economy. We do embrace our homeless, for all that conservatives love to scoff at us for our liberal policies. As a result, other cities dump their homeless on us. Our resources are strained to the max, whether they’re city-run or church-run. We cannot walk five feet down the street without encountering a very aggressive homeless population. The Chronicle has been reporting on how this is impacting the city — a loss in tourism, the new sit-lie laws, etc.

      We should not ignore our homeless, but we can’t let large populations of mentally ill or drug-addicted people have free rein to wander the city, sleep and sit where they will, use our streets as toilets, etc. About a third of the homeless population, nationwide, consists of mentally ill people who either have no access to treatment or who reject treatment (more likely to be the case in SF as we provide free treatment for those who want it). Another large chunk of the homeless population are drug and alcohol addicted and are VERY aggressive when it comes to panhandling. They are also often violent. The homeless population in the Haight, for example, tends to be young, addicted and aggressive (well, the ones who aren’t spoiled Marin brats getting dropped off by Daddy to “play” gutterpunk for the weekend, or whatever…). The Tenderloin? Ha! I dare ya! Go hand out your prayer cards on Eddy and see if you’re still breathing an hour later.

      Suburban do-gooders loooove to pretend they’re all altruistic and really, really want to embrace their homeless, but the reality is that very, very few people are equipped to deal with the gritty reality of a large, unstable, often aggressive or violent homeless population. When you live with a population like that 24/7/365, you’ll be voting for sit-lie & anti-panhandling laws too. Only takes one morning of opening your front door to a pile of human feces to smack the touchy-feely suburban do-goodiness out of ya, and that’s what too many SFans deal with every single day.

  • mary york

    My Brother-in-law and Sis-in-Law both help with the homeless shelter in Boulder, CO, and that is a great way to help in a productive way that does not contribute to addiction.

  • Ally

    Perhaps this has already been addressed in some of the other comments- on the one hand, I certainly see the point that the author is trying to make. On the other hand, I do struggle with giving money to people begging on the streets. We seem to have a plethora of homeless here in San Diego- most you can find coming out of the liquor store next to the same street corner that they have been begging at- no joke, I’ve seen it. So here is my conundrum. I want to help more than anything, but I can’t reconcile giving money to those who, rather than spend it on clothing or food or shelter, would choose to spend it on alcohol and drugs. How does one show mercy and love to the addict on the streets begging for money to support his addiction? One further point- I have offered food when I have had it- some take it (those I also give money to) and some don’t (those I apologize and say that’s all I have).

  • Drmcf

    When I was a young man (in the 1970′s) I watched an interview with a man from India. I remember someone asking him what was the most remarkable thing he had seen in America. His answer was “Fat poor people”. I do not believe the poor of America are the same as the poor of the Bible.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree that the nature of poverty in America is different than the nature of poverty in other countries; however, it is poverty nonetheless. Our poor may have greater access to material goods, if they know how to get them. Sometimes they just don’t know where to go, especially if they are newly poor. If the poor do know where to go, which is also often the case, and instead spiral down into drug addiction and/or mental illness, they are still poor. The reason for their poverty is a clear indication that they are, indeed, unable to care for themselves whether through choice or for medical reasons or both.

      We still have to keep in mind that we aren’t only called to serve the “deserving” poor. Mother Teresa would not ignore the mentally ill poor man as undeserving. Chesterton made a point to give indiscriminately without judgment to one’s possible background, and I admire that. Some may still refuse help by their own free will, but we still must try or possibly rethink the help needed in that situation. I think it is wrong to assume one would refuse help before offering, though.

      In America, we need to find better solutions than handing out cash, given the reason behind much of our poverty. But we still need to work to help those who are so far gone that they are slowly dying from their own mental, spiritual, or physical poverty. Often the material poverty is merely a symptom of a much deeper poverty.

      • Anonymous

        Your “mentally ill poor man” is someone most people would put into the “deserving poor” camp, Elizabeth.

        I agree with you that “we need to find better solutions than handing out cash” or, even more facelessly, writing a check to some third-party organization, or worst of all, campaigning to render the person who is poor for whatever reason – material or spiritual – over to Caesar, i.e. the State.

        The latter, in my opinion, is the error into which the do-gooders of the City of San Francisco fell into (probably, not long after the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic opened). Was it the moral philosopher Adam Smith who once wrote “there is a lot of ruin in a country”? Well, there’s a lot of ruin in a city that is as wealthy and well-ordered as San Francisco was in the early 1960s. Yet even in such a fabulous place as that there can be too much ruin created by too much do-gooder enabling of, frankly, those St. Paul described as “those who will not work.”

        • Elizabeth

          I was responding to the above comment that the “poor of America are not the poor of the Bible”. I realize most people would put mentally ill folks in the “deserving” category, but that individual was implying that America does contain truly poor people.

          As far as the self-inflicted poor, they also clearly suffer from a kind of poverty, whether spiritual, emotional, etc. We may ultimately be unable to help that person, but we can offer in ways that don’t encourage the downward spiral. They have free will to refuse.

          As far as SF, I am a conservative. I don’t advocate much of anything going on in SF. I made a point below that I often don’t give to beggars out of fear for my own safety, especially since I typically tote three small children around. I do think we still have an obligation to help the poor in this country, which is a multi-faceted job with multi-faceted challenges. I also agree that the State is not the solution.

          We do write checks to Food for the Poor. I don’t think check writing is the only or ultimate solution for poverty, but I can get behind an organization that clearly uses resources wisely and is actively part of the solution. At some point, we do need to get out there and contribute through actions as well, though. With young kids, we try to do this in an age-appropriate way (visiting nursing homes, serving at soup kitchens, praying for the unborn, etc.) As they get older, we hope to integrate mission trips and other bigger projects.

          What do you think? Do you have some ideas on the best way to go about this?

  • http://profiles.google.com/tobie.rose Rosemary M

    I agree with this insightful post, but with 2 qualifiers. The first doesn’t matter much, but is just an observation: the poor are not only in the city, but in the country, out in the sticks. And the poor in the sticks get much less help and attention than the poor in the city, because they are less visible.

    The other qualifier is that many people who are asking for money are not entirely honest, and spend what you give them on a pack of cigarettes (or worse addictions) instead of lunch. I know for a fact that some people use simply panhandling to get around the city by getting change for bus fares from others. I have bought lunch for people who beg before, but I’ve never given money, because it’s hard to tell for which people this would be an act of charity and for which it would be an act of enabling .

    All the other things you list, though, are excellent means to combat this: provide food via soup kitchens, provide clothing and shelter through various organizations, give where it really hurts–because in the end, it’s a lot easier to give a guy a buck from your wallet and walk away than it is to invest time and energy into improving people’s lives.

    • Robin E

      Having lived in the sticks for most of my life, I am going to have to disagree with the idea that country poor folk get less help, or are less visible. On the contrary, the poor in rural areas are as well integrated into the community as anyone else, and cannot very well be ignored in communities where everybody knows everybody and friends and relatives are expected to help with everything from childcare to home renovation and farmwork, to occasionally even the groceries.

      The benefits of being poor in the country don’t end there. It would probably surprise most suburbanites to learn how many low income people here in the Ozarks own their own homes, often with a bit of acreage. The answer is many, if not most. And those that don’t generally end up staying indefinitely with relatives, rather than living in their car or on the street. And you it is definitely hard to starve in a community where nearly everyone hunts and gardens. There is always a lot of surplus, bartering, and giving.

      Both churches and welfare offices are easy to find, the lines aren’t long, and odd jobs for under the table money are abundant. Also, most people are out here are believing Christians, and while this might not make them saints, it does create societal expectations that you don’t just let your neighbor suffer when you can lend a helping hand. Even when that neighbor is a big screw-up.

      The rich cannot sequester themselves off either, and are generally expected to behave like regular joes. It’s not a bad environment in which to practice charity in the personal sort of way Christians are meant to. Of course, it’s a lot closer to the sort of environment Jesus lived in than the modern American suburb.

      When my sister and I were little kids, we found two chickens in our front yard one morning. Naturally we thought we were in luck, but my Dad told us solemnly that since we didn’t really need the chickens, they really ought to go to his dirt-poor cousin and family. When he took them over, he acted like his cousin was doing him a favor taking the chickens off his hands. Having a personal relationship provides both the giver and the recipient a huge incentive to keep the charity dignified. I’m not very familiar with the suburbs, but I imagine opportunities for that sort of relationship are few and far between. What lengths do people have to go to in order to practice charity in such an unnatural environment? And how well a you really going to get to know these poor that you have to work to seek out?

      Maybe there are other ways to practice charity in the suburbs. Mother Teresa also said that the greatest poverty in the industrialized West is loneliness. I’ll bet there is plenty of that in the suburbs. Or, if you want to really get to know the poor, do what increasing numbers of Protestants are doing – adopt a child from a country where poverty can mean death, and children with even small handicaps are abandoned at birth. Feed them, clothe them, ransom them, love them forever. We are rich here. Surely we can do better than clothing drives and canned goods at Thanksgiving.

      • TCISACW

        Yes, because the poor women of other countries (as well as here) are merely incubators for the rich. /eyeroll

        Wouldn’t it be better to work to alleviate the conditions that cause poverty in those countries so women aren’t forced into giving away their children? Do those women even count to you? Doesn’t _their_ poverty matter?

        And we’ve seen only too often lately what happens when these well-meaning do-gooder Protestant families adopt poor children from other cultures. Lydia Schatz, anyone? Hana Williams.

        • enness

          Jeez TCISACW.

          “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend’s forehead.” – Chinese proverb

        • Robin E

          I’m not talking about Madonna buying a healthy baby from an impoverished African mom who can’t make ends meet. I’m talking about handicapped children in societies where such things are not accepted.

          In much of Eastern Europe there is zero societal acceptance of people with developmental disabilities. Partly, this is a holdover from communism when non-productive citizens were culled out and warehoused under terrible conditions until they died of malnutrition or common illnesses for which medicine was available, just not to them. Believe it or not, these attitudes and this treatment has not improved that much since the fall of the Soviet Union. Underlying and supporting this devastatingly materialistic view of the human person are the old superstitions in some areas about things like Down Syndrome being contagious or bad luck. These children cannot wait for Western do-gooders to come up with a plan to encourage families to take their handicapped babies home instead of giving up their rights at the hospital. Thousands of them wait in orphanages and adult mental institutions most of us would consider unfit for a dog to live in, malnourished, deprived of all but the most basic care, and have absolutely no concept of what love is. Surely it is not exploiting the misfortunes of the poor to take home one of these little ones wholly rejected by their family and society. Surely it would be ok to bring home a little girl with Down Syndrome, a serious heart defect that could be repaired in the U.S., a belly swollen from a solid four years of nothing but thin potato soup, and teeth rotten from never having been brushd even once in her short life.

          Nonetheless, adoption ministries like Reece’s Rainbow are attempting to change attitudes towards these children in their home countries, so that maybe someday in the future more families will choose to raise such children at home.

          And in the meantime, it is a remarkable opportunity to work towards a culture of life here, too, where over 90% of babies suspected – not diagnosed, but suspected- of having DS are killed in utero. Perhaps these are our poor, too?

          I’m not suggesting we don’t try to help poor women in other countries. If you know a good way to do that, maybe that is something you can work on promoting. But I don’t think that should preclude anyone helping the least of the least, in a very personal and real way, when such immediate and direct avenues exist for us to do so.

  • http://profiles.google.com/tobie.rose Rosemary M

    (whoops, didn’t mean to post another comment here … sorry.)

  • http://profiles.google.com/tobie.rose Rosemary M

    (having comment problems still. :-P )

  • Benjamin Malec

    I have a priest friend in Europe who started a sort of monastic community of all the alcoholics, homeless, prostitutes, drug users, and whatever else you can thing of. They pray the office, raise their own live stock, grow their own crops, bake bread… everything. It started with 2 men and a sick cow. It turned out the cow was pregant and gave birth to two calves. Today there are over 200 men and 60 women in his community.

    We as Catholics are called to more then just feeding the fish. That might be all we can do as an individual, but as the Church, it is our responsibility to get the poor to have a chance to input into society and have a source of income in return.

    If an organization with the power to create sustainable solutions reduces its task to the individual task of giving a fish rather then teaching to fish, it has failed. Short term solutions like these only discurage the poor from moving foward.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kickintheface Jacob Timothy Michael Hughes

      I know this post is old and whatnot, but I saw this and had to comment: You must, however, still give the man a fish. If a hemophiliac was cut, and it wouldn’t stop bleeding, would you go about mending the wound or curing hemophilia?

    • http://www.facebook.com/kickintheface Jacob Timothy Michael Hughes

      I know this post is old and whatnot, but I saw this and had to comment: You must, however, still give the man a fish. If a hemophiliac was cut, and it wouldn’t stop bleeding, would you go about mending the wound or curing hemophilia?

  • Georg Laing

    Living in South Africa, beggars can be found everywhere, even in the wealthiest of suburbs.Sometimes I wonder whether giving them money is not perhaps encouraging them to beg instead of look for work? That sounds terrible, I know…

    • Anonymous

      It sounds terrible only because some people like Marc Barnes romanticize “the poor”. This is a folly to which the young-and-dumb are especially prone.

      Ayn Rand*, who did depict the heroine of one of her novels personally looking a homeless man in the eye, listening to his story, and giving him a meal, understood that “the poor” are really individuals and therefore must be treated individually.

      *Perhaps Marc Barnes should read more and insult less. To whom much is given, much is expected. Which of the two, Marc Barnes or Ayn Rand, received the grace of baptism? Just sayin’.

  • http://catholiceconomist.wordpress.com/ Buster

    People please…the exception PROVES the rule, the exception ISN’T the rule.

  • http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/ Barbara


    I generally agree with the premise of your article. I think the whole idea of the only helping the “deserving poor” is, frankly, lame. Jesus helped anyone who asked, he didn’t say “I’m not gonna restore that guy’s sight, he’ll just use those new eyes to watch porn.” At the same time, however, I realize that a lot of Anti-begging laws are not so much about keeping the poor invisible, but because of problems with aggressive panhandlers, people who stalk, insult, threaten or even do physical harm to people they are begging for money. This has been a problem in my city for years. The law has to find a way to balance the needs of the poor with those of civic society.


  • http://www.facebook.com/kickintheface Jacob Timothy Michael Hughes

    Older post, but as I was reading it I thought of Bl. Mother Teresa. “It is very fashionable these days to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not very fashionable to talk with them.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/kickintheface Jacob Timothy Michael Hughes

    Older post, but as I was reading it I thought of Bl. Mother Teresa. “It is very fashionable these days to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not very fashionable to talk with them.”