Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Remember the Neediest!

Displaying Photo.jpg
Hmmm. A weird thing at the bottom right-hand corner
of many pages in the Nov. 15 issue of the New York Times:
The phrase "Remember the Neediest!"

 Written by Tom Armstrong
 Nov. 16, 2016

While thumbing through the Tuesday edition of the New York Times, I noticed something weird: On a lot of the pages of the front section, the lower-righthand corner has this text: "Remember the Neediest!" [see photo]

"What the hell?" I thought. Now, I knew that Thanksgiving was coming, as is Christmas a month later, but surely there is something really good and specific at hand to explain this phrase.

Or, is it the kind of fake-you-out advertising that has invaded Facebook and other media? Maybe there is a new business that makes fashionable sweaters or a new craft brewery seeking attention with an unusual handle to attract the neediest of suds drinkers.

As it turns out, The Times has raised money for a small set of needy people every year since about 1911. The money that gets donated goes into the paper's Neediest Cases Fund. So far this holiday season, the newspaper has raised $40,180 for six causes through a GoFundMe money-raising account. The paper's goal this year is to raise a whopping $5.5 million. [Update: As of Dec. 5, the New York Times has raised its goal to $6,000,000.]

Is this an idea that The Bee or some charity should employ to gather funds to aid the neediest in Sacramento this holiday season? Dunno. Don't think so.

As much as I am aware that tricky techniques are what works to get folks to open their wallets and fork over a bunch of money, I think as a matter of deontological ethics many homeless-aid charities fail to deliver the goods and are, thus, unworthy of receiving donations.

The "fix" for the ethics failures is for potential donors to require homeless charities to be good and to be honest. Indeed, donors, themselves have an obligation, according to most ethics theories, to do good with a heightened awareness that they are really, truly, honestly, actually bringing good to the world -- and it all is not based on falsehoods and misdirection that comes from some Sacramento charities.

An example of a Sacramento charity gone very bad, IMHO, has been St. John's Shelter for Women and Children on Power Inn Road. Top administrators for the charity had, for a very long time, misled potential donors by saying or implying that women and children on their waiting list to get into the shelter are left out in the freezing cold (or in somesuch desperate circumstance).

In fact, more so than other shelter waiting lists, those on the St. John's list were very likely to be in an amenable situation, but were looking for/awaiting something better. [i.e., a family can be sleeping/living in a cousin's livingroom, but seeks to be in a family shelter or get a voucher to pay for a motel room.]

The Union Gospel Mission and Loaves & Fishes make unethical use of pleas for donations by suggesting that a holiday meal for a homeless person can be provided for a pittance. For $1.42, a mailing might say, you can buy a huge, delicious meal for a homeless woman. Why not buy twenty meals? For only $28.40 you can feed twenty and know that you are a hero/heroine in our community!?

The problem, here, is that the calculation of $1.42 is never provided. Indeed, with donated food and volunteer servers at holiday meals, there likely is NO additional cost for getting bodacious holiday meals in the trays for hungry homeless folk on holidays.

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