I lived in Colorado Springs for 20 years, and there was always a level of homelessness apparent. I visited again on Tuesday and it was astonishingly worse, with aggressive panhandling all over the place downtown. A guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties and was wearing a patagonia jacket asked me for money- it was easy to say no but it was hard not to be judgmental.
We don't have much panhandling here in the mountains, but we do have a worryingly large population of van-dwellers using public land close to town. I get being down on luck, and my heart goes out. But these folks generate an incredible amount of waste and seem to trash the popular campsites- it's hard to want to help when there is such a level of disrespect by at least some of the population.
It's such a complicated problem- friends who are better informed talk about all the well-intended ideas that have unintended consequences. For example, a number of soup kitchens in CS have a coordinated meal schedule (makes sense) but that apparently created an attractive enough option that people started migrating to town to take advantage of the three available meals per day. It seems like every community will have a population that needs help, but when they are shopping venue (no surprise that the density map didn't show much in Northern states), it becomes a more complicated issue. I'm not well enough informed to know all the ins and outs, but I do get that there are a lot of layers to it.
I knew someone years ago who was running a program to give housing to indigent folks who were most abusing the ER. They would rent an apartment in Denver, stock it with food, and try to help the person, since that was much cheaper for the city than repeated ambulance/ ER visits, not to mention more humane. But, no one who worked for the program could afford to live in the neighborhoods where the apartments they gave away were- they had to commute into downtown since rents were too high. Somewhere, something is wrong.
As someone who has privilege and health, it is so easy to have judgment and to see options for these people that they can't see, or can't take advantage of, themselves. It's hard to understand what they are living through, but I do my best to empathize and put some time and money into non-profits that are trying to help.
Is there a dunno smiley?