Wednesday, Talking Soup published an article I’d written about giving to the homeless. It can be found here: Hope you enjoy! And of course, feedback is always welcomed.

21 thoughts on “Transient

  1. Congrats Kathy on the publication of your thought-provoking story. Love your honesty on this touchy subject. I have issues giving to ‘transient’ for reasons that would fill a page. But I have no qualms parting with a penny to support a hawker selling wares on the streets, a budding artist singing his/her heart out at a street corner or anyone else who isn’t just waiting for a penny. Sounds harsh, I know.

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    1. Thanks Khaya! Not harsh at all. I figure if I want authenticity and honesty, then I need to be those things myself. Now, I do wonder why you’ll give to the artist? Is it because s/he is “working” for his or her wares? No judgment…just a question.

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  2. Good read. I’ve tried my best to give whenever possible regardless of the situation. I recall one time a small group of people from a church were taking up a collection at an intersection and after I had given one of my sons asked me “what if they aren’t really from a church?” to which I responded “who they are or what they do is not my concern but I need to do the right thing.”

    There are times when I’ve had to pause for instance when walking through Pittsburgh and someone approaches, unless I have spare change in my pocket I typically will not give purely for safety reasons. The other aspect of this is from a situation I found myself in 20+ years ago. I was in a women’s shelter with my children and because I always strived to be presentable, it shocked me when I had to apply for temporary food stamps and the woman behind the desk said I was “homeless” because my residence at the time was the shelter. The point I’m trying to make here is sometimes things are not as they appear and there are people who may need help but because of pride or whatever few would be aware of the situation.

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    1. Absolutely Stephanae! That’s where I was going with this. Once you’ve given, you’ve done what you believe is the so-called “right” thing to do and what they do is on them. Also, we never know…that’s kinda why I chose to title it Transient, instead of homeless, cause I don’t know these people’s situations and I’m sure they’re each unique, as you’ve stated.

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      1. You’re welcome, I was drawn to the people in your story and found myself wanting to know the man’s tale. So many questions about him were running through my head. Was he mentally ill or was he posing as someone who’s transient. I probably would have done as you did but still the nagging questions.

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  3. Hey Kathy, really well written piece and your re-telling of the story made me really want to know more. I have issues with giving people money and a fear that if I give something once, I will have to do it all the time, particularly with people I see so often, such as a man who is always just a couple of hundred meters from my office entrance that I pass at least twice a day. I never walk past without an internal struggle. Maybe one of these days, something will tip my struggle over the edge and I’ll do what I feel is right in the moment rather than have a theoretical internal argument while a person is clearly suffering. Back to your piece- I was drawn in to the descriptions of the possibly homeless people you encountered, but your journey to non-judgmental wasn’t clear. That is the story I want to hear…what made you change your mind? what made you start to feel they no longer needed to meet your pre-requisites or ‘earn’ your money?

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    1. That’s what my husband said. And I can see where a sentence or two might’ve clarified that. This is what I told him: I guess I wanted it to be implied that there’s no way we could ever know everyone’s story and it’s unnecessary anyway. Just give or don’t give but don’t hold your money hostage cause you’re hung up on judging the person and his or her story. In between that time I also had asked my husband if your mom asked you for a dollar, would you give it to her? His answer was yes of course. So part of my journey was realizing that we also give based on relations. But it’s the same dollar, you know? Somehow giving a dollar to a stranger who possibly might not need it is “wrong.” I say all that to say I see what you mean about needing to flesh out the in between. When I think about it by the time I’d seen him at Wendy’s I’d already been thinking about it quite a bit.

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      1. Yeah, if you talked us through that bit between the two times where you saw the man, it would have helped. I think subconsciously I was thinking of it in terms of the structure of my writing course where the focus is very much on the central dramatic question and the character arc, to keep the reader engaged with the dramatic tension, and to allow a connection with the readers journey. That aside, and back to the subject matter- I think my main reason is that I feel it disempowers a person if that way of life becomes a workable option. But then a lot of the time there is substance abuse or mental illness as the root cause of homelessness and it is just a fellow human who is hungry or tired or just wants a break. You’re right about not knowing the person’s story and it being unnecessary to know to help them out.

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  4. That is a very compelling story. I volunteered with a homeless ministry for several years. I made a huge pot of stew/soup every Thursday and a group of people would donate sandwiches and desserts. Our leader would take the food and a few recruits to the rougher parts of Vancouver, and of the suburb we live in. I went once in awhile to take in what it was all about. I couldn’t believe how grateful most of the people were. Like you, I got to see a different side of them and it has made me want to do more. Thanks for your honest words.

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