If you want to get the best that homeless service providers offer, you have to plant yourself right on their front door step. And btw, I guess I should define “homeless service providers” for you. Any person or organization that helps or provides something to homeless people could be a homeless service provider. It could be the guy picking up day old bread of the local Kroger grocery store and passing the loaves out to homeless people in the park. It could be the Salvation Army shelter. It could be the human services department of your city government. Mainly, though, when I speak of homeless service providers, I’m talking about rescue missions and day shelters, the major players in the homelessness industry.
When I volunteered to wash dishes at a local soup kitchen, I was allowed to eat my fill, not just eat what was dished out to me, and I had access to food that wasn’t being served to the masses. Helping out at the soup kitchen allowed me to eat better and healthier on those days. But that’s more about me receiving some small compensation for my labor. I recommend helping out wherever you can, not just for the material benefits, but the work, staying busy, keeps your mind and spirit from getting mushy and warped. On the streets it’s possible to succumb to the ugliness around you.
Homeless service providers are mostly 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, operations. Some shelters have extended hours, but even so, all the good stuff happens during regular business hours. That’s when the best of what HSP’s (Homeless Service Providers) have is given to the homeless. Additionally, the very best of what is handed out comes without warning, perhaps because there’s usually a limited supply. If you see several homeless people gathering quickly, don’t stop to ask what they’re doing. It’s a hand out of something decent, so get yourself in there amongst them quickly. Wedge your way past other slower moving people if you have to. Just make sure you get whatever it is before it’s all gone. Or, just learn to do without.
Ok, I’m not really trying to encourage bad behavior. Sometimes, though, that’s just the way it goes. Depending on how organized the HSP is, and how motivated the HSP worker is to keep things organized, you have to determine just what you can get away with. The more organized the HSP is the less hassle, and trouble there is, but it’s true that there is a significant number of homeless people constantly working against any attempt by the HSP to keep things under control. Some homeless people thrive on an insane level of chaos.
The standard give outs, of meals, clothing, and beds for the night, are usually well organized and happen at the same time each day. But even these things are limited and are provided on a first come first served basis. So, it’s best to know exactly when people start lining up to receive. At a shelter in Las Vegas people started lining up for beds at noon, even though they didn’t start letting people in until that evening. The clothing room at a rescue mission, where you might only receive one item per day, might open at 3pm, but people will start lining up for it right after lunch.
As someone recently reminded me, on occasion a shoe manufacturing company may donate some decent shoes to the homeless, especially work boots and other items that are required for employment. But that company will want to conduct the give away during the middle of the day, when all the homeless with the ability to work are at work. So, most of the good quality items are given out to crack heads and alcoholics would will turn around and sell these nice things for money to get a fix. Now, they do usually sell these things to the people who could actually use them. So homeless construction workers can still get really cheap work boots, but they are having to buy them from the crack heads, and so are not benefiting as much from the intended charity.
Now, some HSPs, if they know what’s going on, they make some allowances for the people with real and more pressing needs, setting aside the quality stuff for those who can most benefit from them. But, often that is not the case. Some HSPs just aren’t willing to put that much effort into their work. So, for the many homeless people who are actually trying to improve themselves, staying busy and being productive, there are only the left overs – the things that a couple hundred other homeless people passed over and deemed undesirable. To me, this way of allocating goods seems to only encourage homeless people to hover around shelters, and missions, etc, instead of getting out of the homeless environment and doing something productive with themselves.
Ok, I’m going to end this right now, so to get it on the blog…consider it an uncompleted post. I’ll try to complete my thoughts on this subject another time.