Here on my personal soap box, to my invisible non-existent audience, I present:
MAKE HOMELESS PEOPLE LEAVE ME ALONE - a guide to dealing with your local panhandlers, as inspired by this kickass poster from Calgary.
"Your Generosity is Killing Me" and “Your Sympathy Keeps Me on the Street” - a catchy new line from a catchy poster campaign straight from Calgary. That’s right, the city that gave all their homeless people bus tickets to Vancouver so that they wouldn’t be gumming up their streets during the 1988 Olympics - they care. Really, they do. Because 85% of your change…it goes to drugs and alcohol. So, don’t give change. No, I know, you feel bad, and poor people are awkward, but, No. If you give them money, they’ll never shape up and get a job. In fact, your cold, judging stare might be just the kick those people need to stop being lazy and make something of themselves, like you did, Accomplished Calgary Businessman. In fact, you’re a lot more sympathetic and nicer to look at: perhaps we should make a poster about you.
I can see it… you, busy and handsome Calgary executive…oooh, I wonder if you have money in oil? We’ll have you talking on your cell phone, so we know you’re important. In fact, make it a blue tooth…oooh and you’ll be holding you brief case in one hand and your other hand can be up, blocking your face, giving a ‘talk to the hand,’ so that the person can see that you’re on the phone…and there, beside you, cast in shadows, we’ll put the guy from the other poster. And he’ll look like crap, next to your three piece suit. And people will be able to see what a piece of shit he looks like, next to you, and how when he holds out his cap for your change, you dismiss him, and avoid eye contact, and keep walking to your very important meeting, because you, sir, are a successful businessman. You have places to go, and worthwhile people to talk to, and most importantly: You Care. Because, you see… “Your Sympathy Keeps (Him) on the Street.” Wait…no…we used that line on a poster already, we need a new one. Hmmm…oh! Perfect!! “Your Requests for Spare Change Annoy Me.” And then, we can make little steam lines coming out of the businessman’s head, and they’ll be composed of change, so it’s will be a metaphor. See? Your requests for spare change keep this handsome businessman annoyed, people! When will it end? His suffering is YOUR suffering, society. Please, don’t give change.
Like it?? Me too. Because if we ignore homeless people, they’ll go away. In fact, we did a study, and science has proven that 85% of addicts who can’t afford drugs stop using - that’s how addictions work. So no change from you, no drugs, no homeless people bugging important people like you. Period. Way to solve society’s dilemma, you! And if they do manage to defy the odds and not shape up…well, maybe they’ll die. In fact, if you tell them to fuck off and get a job, it might be even faster…the second leading cause of death on the Downtown Eastside is suicide, I bet the Calgary stats are similar. So, contempt is in order. In fact…why not spit? Actions speak louder than words, people. If you want homeless people off the street, you’ll have to shame them there yourself.
Oh, there’s that bit on there about giving to agencies instead - yup, we put that on there on purpose. I know what you’re thinking - we didn’t put any contact info or anything. And we just painted anyone asking for money as a useless piece of crap addict - it doesn’t exactly inspire you to look up a shelter’s number. And I know what you’re thinking: aren’t those shelters just enabling people, too? If you feed people, or give them counseling, or a bed, or medicine…you’re keeping them on the street. They’ll just live for longer, and they’ll keep on using, and people will STILL be asking you for change. You’re not solving the problem at all.
Plus, really, you have important plans for that fifty cents, you. And if those pesky panhandlers would just stop annoying you, that money could cure AIDS. It would be applied locally to agencies that are working to solve problems that annoy you. It would be bringing peace to the Middle East and pumping blood into a dying child’s heart - that’s right, your change would be doing all of that, even though nobody asked. Because: you care. You’re thinking about those things, Calgary, day in and day out - thinking about how to use your spare change to make the world a better place. So it’s not just that the homeless person’s request annoys you - it undermines your ability to direct those funds to a charity of your choice, which you totally would be doing, Right Now, if that homeless guy wasn’t taking up all of your time. So, just…GO AWAY. God. Why do they keep asking? It must be because of all those bleeding hearts out there…damn it, they just aren’t as smart as you. You know that 85% of their money is going to drugs, but maybe they don’t. Maybe homeless people make them feel guilty. People are stupid like that. BUT I bet stupid people are easily swayed by poster campaigns…oooh! We should totally show them these posters! And that part about giving to agencies will speak to their bleeding hearts, long enough to get them out of the habit of looking homeless people in the eye. No, no…no one actually does give to agencies enabling those homeless bums, don’t worry, we did a study on that, too. Because 85% of money refused to the homeless…it makes the world a Better Place.
NOTE: I do not give change, myself. I work in Canada’s worst neighbourhood, so I get asked a lot, and as a 90lb woman who gets off work at midnight, I can really sympathize…homeless people are SCARY! They…ask for stuff, sometimes. It’s all very awkward…I don’t want to talk about it. But there is something I need to work on: I still make eye contact. I know…I know…I’m treating them like People. And that…well, it makes me care, a little. Like I would care for my fellow human being…crap…see? “Human Being?” That is what eye contact does! And then I say “No, I‘m sorry.” …I know… I’m ashamed. It’s like the poster campaign has taught me nothing at all. Calgary…please…send more helpful advice. Because, sometimes, when I have extra clothes or food or time…oh, I can’t say it. It’s too shameful. I need to shape up. I need to Fight Homelessness…and by the heel of my boot, someday soon, I will.