ME: I was walking home from some sort of activity one late afternoon with my friend Megan when a man approached me. At first I thought he was asking for directions, which I’m always happy to help with. It took a little while before I realized what the man was talking about.
HOMELESS MAN 1: Can you help me get home?
ME: He said. Sure, where you trying to get to? He said some city…
HOMELESS MAN 1: In Indiana.
ME: Well, I think you can catch the Metra train a few blocks over on Michigan Ave, but I’m not very familiar with it.
HOMELESS MAN 1: Well, that’s the thing.
ME: And this is when he began to tell his story.
HOMELESS MAN 1: I came up here from Indiana to meet some friends for a concert…
ME: He said. His friends were from Milwaukee, or something like that.
HOMELESS MAN 1: And I parked my car to go to the show. I went out to the bars after the show with my buddies and then we went someone’s apartment to continue the party. At the party, my friend’s ended up ditching me after I had passed out in the house I was in. I woke up to find my whole wallet and backpack full of goods stolen. I have nothing, no money, no ID, and no way to get home.
ME: I remember thinking, ‘this man’s story is crazy enough that it might actually be true’.
HOMELESS MAN 1: Without an ID, I can’t claim my car and I have no money to get back to Indiana. I was able to make a call to my dad and he said,
ME: This part I remember vividly.
DAD 1: Son, if anyone is nice enough to help you out and get you some money to get back here, get their information and I will be sure to send them reimbursement for the money and a very big thank you note!
ME: The man told me he needed forty dollars for a ticket. At that moment, I decided to help him. Some may think I was stupid, but I had a gut feeling he really needed help. I already accepted the fact I wasn’t going to get the money back, but I thought a thank you note from him or his father and word of his return would suffice. So, I went to the bank, withdrew the money from my account while he waited outside, walked back out, gave it to him along with my email address and wished him luck. His gratitude for the help was sincere and I had really felt good about what I’d done. We parted ways and that was the last I saw of the man. That was over 2 years ago. I now feel very differently about helping people out.
ME: I stood waiting for the Mega Bus on South Canal Street and I’ve been there many times. I don’t remember one time standing there and not being approached by a homeless person looking for spare change, or CTA cards. Just this past week, July fifth, I was standing waiting for my bus to Detroit when an older gentleman approached me. He said something to smart small talk with me. Then HE too went into his story.
HOMELESS MAN 2: I’m a war vet and teacher of 20 years and I got laid off and don’t have any money to get back home- can you spare some change?
ME: I specifically replied, I’ don’t have any cash on me’. Which WAS a lie, but if I had wanted to give him any, it would have meant pulling out my wallet for him to see that I have credit cards, twenty-dollar bills, etc. It was too risky.
HOMELESS MAN 2: Oh okay.
ME: He said and began to walk away, but he turned back after taking a few steps and said this to me...
HOMELESS MAN 2: Ya know, I don’t want to judge you or nothing because that’s not my job, but I never left my house without any spare change in my pocket. I’m not saying you should give me your money, because that’s your money, but I wish you wouldn’t stand here and lie to me in front of God.
ME: And walked away. I was dumbfounded. I could have chewed him apart and boy did I want to. Who was HE to tell ME about lying? How do I know he’s not lying to ME about (in a sarcastic voice) needing money to get home? How do I know he wasn’t just another man scamming me like the last? (take a breath) I let it go, but it got me to thinking: never give homeless person money. And I don’t say that because it’s YOUR money and you shouldn’t help the needy… But money isn’t worth anything to someone REALLY in need. Buy the person food if they say they’re hungry. Bring a man socks, which did happen to me. Give a person a reusable, sturdy water bottle your not using anymore to refill with water. If they’re asking for money, you’re just giving them free range to with it as they please and that’s not helping anyone’s situation. That’s why I say, ‘never give a homeless person money’.