Spare Change in New Orleans
I see people with toothless smiles whose dirty clothing hangs limply on their thin bodies. I see young women and men on the street – perhaps 20-25 years old. The women may be exceedingly thin with dark circles under their eyes. The young men are somewhat healthier and they are begging for money on the sidewalk by offering to write a poem on a typewriter in their laps. Other young men often express anger and frustration and play their stringed instruments roughly, singing with harsh voices, hoping for dollars in the plastic cups by their side.
In Metairie, a wealthier suburb of New Orleans, people beg for money near a few of the major throughways. The men and women are looking down and with an expression of shame. When I hold out my $1 they say, “I’m in trouble now. I’ll get over this hump.” Their clothes are clean and fit them properly. Perhaps they lived on the edge of poverty, and a fire, broken car, or health problem has landed them in the street without a home.
True, people with talent can perform on the street and earn money. People with little or no money must beg in order to get a bit of cash. While some folks gather together and make a small business out of begging, others are entirely on their own.
I keep dollars separately and give out of my pocket or car window. I give both to the skilled entertainers and to the poor. Many of those begging are homeless. Perhaps they have lost their jobs and their homes. Promise the Children is working with others to present two programs on Homelessness in Massachusetts.
Please take action. Vote for more affordable housing, higher minimum wages, (40 hours at minimum wage doesn’t pay for private housing) or for funding for poverty prevention programs, or just give a dollar to someone who obviously needs spare change.