Ever wonder — if you’re one of those people who give panhandlers money or food — what the result of your “good deed” is?
On Saturday shortly after 6 p.m. we came across a homeless guy panhandling for food at the stop sign on Historical Plaza Way at Spreckels Avenue. He was flying the prerequisite cardboard sign reading “Help Please, Very Hungry, God Bless.” Nearby was a pilfered Food-4-Less shopping cart.
We saw a woman hand him a rotisserie chicken, presumably bought across the street at Food-4-Less for around $5. The man took it offering up his gratitude.
So if the woman thought the homeless guy was going to eat the chicken which obviously would be a healthy meal, she will be disappointed to learn the truth.
On Monday afternoon we returned to the scene of what most of us would erroneously believe was a good deed. Guess what we found in the Food-4-Less shopping cart very nicely left in the sidewalk along Spreckels Avenue, which is the main road serving Manteca’s bustling Spreckels Park? For starters the chicken was left untouched and had spoiled. There was fast food bags from Jack in the Box, McDonald’s as well as Panera Bread. Items from all three places were left half eaten in the cart drawing ants. One hopes Food-4-Less steam cleans their retrieved shopping carts as Costco does.
Did we mention there was more stuff in the cart? There was an empty 25-ounce can of Modelo beer, an empty 25-ounce can of Busch beer, and an empty Louis Roederer champagne bottle.
A dozen or so yards away was yet another cart with — you guessed it — more uneaten food including potatoes, uneaten burgers from McDonald’s and more.
So what is the message from all this?
Listen to the Manteca Police community resource officers who deal directly with the homeless and have helped get neatly 300 reunited with families or into programs to get help with addiction as well as the non-profit staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to help the homeless.
What do they say?
Don’t enable the homeless.
Virtually all homeless get either SSI, Social Security, disability, or general assistance checks from the county. Give them money and food and what does it free up their money for? Try alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.
The police department has a voucher program where if a CRO comes across a homeless individual in need of shoes, clothing and such they can get it free of charge at the Hospice Hope Chest on South Main Street. If you feel inclined to leave bags of used clothing for them, do everyone a favor and simply drive around your own neighborhood and toss the clothing out of your window at random to trash up your area of Manteca instead of doing it to the rest of the city.
The bottom line is true. The more comfortable the homeless are — fed, warm, dry, and having basic needs taken care of — the more difficult it is for the Manteca Police CROs and organizations they work with to convince homeless to get off the street.
The goal is to make it as miserable as possible so they will accept helping hands that have always been there to reunite them with families or to get clean so they have a chance at getting a job, securing shelter, and not live on the street.