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Homeless advice in recent "Ask Joey" columns

The first thing I read in the Sacramento News & Review each week is Ask Joey, a relationships and commonsense column, written by Joey Garcia.

Joey is about seven levels of maturity and brilliance and compassion above those relationship newspaper columnists I grew up reading: the twins, Ann Landers and Abby of "Dear Abby." Often, I am blown away by Joey’s insight into the human psyche.

Last Week, Joey responded to a parenting question that dovetailed, sorta, to an issue I have with a great many poor mothers I see on the street. This week, she responded to a situation regarding a homeless person shoplifting.

Joey Garcia
I had complained about parenting skills in Homeless World, writing in the post "A long line and loot," on Nov. 20, "It was sad to see some of the woman with children that I saw this morning and see most days. Many of those kids are brutalized; they need more-loving mothers and the attention of their fathers."

This quote by Joey Garcia, from her 11/25/10 column of "Ask Joey" in the Sacramento News & Review snags the pith of how parents should be.  Listen up, you homeless parents:
Good parenting always places the best interest of the child above a parent’s own perceived needs and desires. Parenting is an opportunity for adults to learn how to be selfless, a key skill of maturity.
In THIS week's issue [for 12/2/10], Joey responds to this concern from a reader:

What do you do when you see a homeless person stealing? I was in a Grocery Outlet store, and this woman came in who, obviously from her smell and appearance, lived on the streets. She shoplifted a few items righ in front of me, and I was so startled I didn't say anything. She left immediately and, as I was thinking about it, I started justifying her action because of the crazy social-service system we have. What do you think?
Joey's response:
If it happens again, it's unlikely that you will be as surprised.  So try this: Admit to the person, if it feels safe to do so, that you observed the act of stealing.   Offer to buy the item as a gift if she (or he) puts it back on the shelf.  Then after the person exits, alert the store manager.  After all, if you owned or managed the store, wouldn't you want to know?
Funny thing that is not at all funny is that I have myself recently been flustered by being told by a homeless person of his theft.

A homeless guy, whom I'll call Charlie, who was "the life of the party" at the mission when I knew him about a year ago, recently returned. Apparently, for his interests, Sacramento and the mission have changed for the worse. As compared to a year ago, he is prevented from doing the things he likes to and in engaging in his slightly-illegal business — so he's leaving in a matter of days for Colorado.

Yesterday, he told me, with some giggling pride, that he stole some person's backpack at the train station and now has a cellphone.

I wish I had at least loudly voiced disapproval, but I've gotten acclimated to the wanton ways of homelessness, including my own wry acceptance of rascality by grown men.

Someone with us asked what else was in the backpack and Charlie said, in an offhanded way, but with a smile, "Just some college papers and clothes."

There's not an inkling of thought about the person who owned the stolen backpack, and how losing one's stuff is painful and disruptive.

I think that Joey's response to the woman who witnessed a homeless person shoplifting was perfect: Compassionate, yet intolerant of theft.

Tonight at the mission I'm going to let Charlie know I think it was wrong for him to have taken the backpack. Concerns for my own well-being in the homeless realm prevent me from doing more.  I'll just slink off to the corner and lick wounds that I don't have.

Comments

Nagarjuna said…
One of my favorite advice columnists was Dr. Joyce Brothers. I don't know if she still does a column; she's getting up there in years. But what I always liked about her was the psychological depth she brought to her advice. She didn't simply condemn people who did questionable things. She might condemn their actions, but she offered cogent psychological explanations for those actions and credible psychological advice for dealing with them. We need more of that sort of thing.

As for lengthier and more "literary" advice, Cary Tennis of Salon.com is also pretty good.
Tom Armstrong said…
Thanks, Nagarjuna. I will check out Cary Tennis and see if I can find Dr. Brothers's column -- with one eye looking for homeless issues they may have addressed.
Tom Armstrong said…
Here's one Cary Tennis Q&A re a homeless man in the house.

http://www.salon.com/life/since_you_asked/2008/04/08/homeless_man/index.html

Dunno if Tennis got things 'just right'; will need to consider. Hmmm

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