When Help Doesn’t Help

It is sorely disappointing when you’ve tried to help a person again and again, only to be met with ingratitude in return. This is particularly so when it is evident that your efforts appear to have done nothing to improve his life.

Of course, when you start down the road of helping a needy individual, it is difficult to know when to stop. At what point does largesse cease being charitable and begin being enabling?

We had it out with Homeless Guy #1 the other day. I don’t regret that it happened; we said some things that have needed to be said for some time.

If you’ve followed A Map of California for a while now, you know that we’ve extended ourselves for this gentleman time and time again. We have fed him, provided him with new shoes, given him bus fare, purchased items he needed for his outdoor mode of living, given him extra pillows and blankets, counselled him, visited him in jail, allowed him to wash and dry his clothes in our laundry room and allowed him to use the church rest room so that caring for his bodily needs would not result in arrest on charges of indecent exposure.

This guy is a user in every sense of the word. He uses both drugs and people. His mental deficiencies, lack of social skills, substance abuse and anger management problems have left him unemployable, unhoused and in frequent trouble with the law. Recently, he served three months in the county jail on a string of felony charges, led by allegations of forcible rape. When the district attorney ran into difficulties with securing the testimony of their star witness (who now resides out of state), good old #1 was released on parole, his whereabouts monitored by an ankle bracelet. It is unlikely that he would have been paroled had he admitted to being homeless. Instead, he gave his mother’s address, leaving out the part about sleeping in a corner of the yard because his violence and vulgarity long ago got him banned from the house.

Homeless Guy #1’s lack of candor with law enforcement is now coming back to bite him. His problem is that he has no money to pay the ankle bracelet monitoring fees. So a few days ago, he visited the parsonage to demand money. When we refused due to our own financial difficulties, he began raising his voice and issuing a diatribe full of invective against the church in general and against us in particular.

Our friend is a master of excuses. Each time he asks for the key to the church rest room, we remind him to lock it when done. He has stopped complying with this simple request. He insists that he is unable to lock the door, although doing so is never a problem for anyone else. Leaving the rest room unlocked is convenient, as it allows him to sneak back in whenever he wants to spend some time indoors. The safety and insurance issues alone are daunting.

Pastor Mom finally told #1 that he is no longer welcome to use the church rest room. I was so glad to hear this. He should expect nothing less after carrying on about how we’ve made nothing but problems for him all along and how the church has never done anything to help him.

Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I hope I never see the guy again. The problem is that I know I will. That is, until the sheriffs finally come around and haul him off to state prison.

In the meantime, I remain disappointed and saddened that our efforts have been met with such blatant ingratitude. It brings out my cynical nature and makes me wonder whether some people just cannot be helped.

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5 thoughts on “When Help Doesn’t Help

    • Thanks, Mindy! I agree about the psych lock-up. The incident I described occurred about three weeks ago (I end up having to write a lot of posts in advance), and the guy hasn’t been around since. We feel badly for him, though, as his tent is plainly visible from our house and the nights here have dipped down to freezing lately. I am starting to believe that there is only so much one can do. You can’t help those who just want a fish handed to them daily and have no interest in learning how to fish.

      • Well, I’m glad he hasn’t been harassing your family. I have some personal experience with fish-takers that refuse to become fish-earners. Good luck to you all!

  1. Pingback: Home(less) for the Holidays | A Map of California

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