There is a man who is a regular at the offramp I take to get home every night after work.
He goes by Pops and has a lot of little stuffed toys and things decorating his cart. He was there almost every night and I started giving him my change, half my lunch that I was bringing home, pizza from the work party, anything I could find / get to give him on the way home.
The other night, he wasn’t there. And wasn’t there for another three nights. I got worried. The next time I saw him, his cart was gone and he was in a back brace. It was the second time he’d been robbed but this time they beat him up so badly he was in the hospital for three days.
He has a wagon now and is slowly getting things back and he already has a stuffed toy atop the pile.
What can I do for him? Anything I give him could be taken and the nicer the things the more likely somebody’s going to kick the crap out of him again and take it. I don’t want him to get hurt but I want to get him a backpack, some jeans, socks, maybe a book… just little things like that.
Would it be offensive to give him $20 and take him to a fast food place nearby and buy him dinner and just sit and talk with him for 30-60 minutes? I really want to hear his story and know who he is but I don’t want to offend him. He said he makes about $20 an hour on the offramp before the cops give him the boot and I didn’t want to take away his income, hence the $20.
I feel a connection with this guy and my heart tells me I should pay him to sit down with me and talk while we eat. I also know I can’t rescue him from the streets but I want to give him something that will make his life a little easier, even for just a few days.
Guys get beat up like that because they allow themselves to be vulnerable. They are vulnerable, not because they sleep outside but because they get high, either by drinking or taking pills, or smoking crack. And when they get hi, more than likely they become bellicose, argumentative, mouth off to the wrong people, etc. This is probably why he sleeps outside. He can’t get along with others enough to be allowed in a shelter. And from my experience, people like this are angry at the world, suffering from some past hurt that’s been too much for him to bear. With this type of homeless person you are likely to not get much of the truth out of him if you just sit down once to have dinner with him. He won’t trust you enough to be completely honest with you, and will probably consider you an easy mark. He’ll tell you what he thinks you want to hear, all geared towards playing on your sympathies so to get even more out of you, in the way of cash and supplies. Also, being that most likely he is an addict, he’ll probably take anything “nice” you give him and will sell it for money that will go towards his addiction. These are all things you should be aware of when speaking with him. Sure, spend time getting to know him, buy him dinner if he’s willing to take a break from panhandling, but I wouldn’t give him more than that, just your company and a free meal, until you get to know him for who he really is, beyond the facade he will present to you at first. It will take patience and dedication and many many “lunch” dates before he begins to trust you enough to tell you the truth about himself. Take it slow and don’t expect great changes over night. Also, know that if this guy is “decorating” his cart, he may be suffering from some sort of mental illness as well, which could be cause for concern. Don’t allow him in your car anywhere, but only agree to meet him some public place, like at a McDonalds. McDonalds are places homeless people are familiar with and will be more comfortable in, as compared to a nicer restaurant, which may be too intimidating for him.