Column: Helping the homeless in everyone’s best interest

Elise Clements, Staff Writer

I know it can be tough finding love for homeless people. I don’t really expect to spark that in anyone. I’m not sure my sweetest words could perfume the fetid, pigpen cloud surrounding some such individuals.

But we live in a city of world-class beauty with a moderate climate, and rent that makes most of us cry every month. We have homeless people.

They seem about as eager to abandon their beachfront abodes as any Montecito millionaire. So who are these people and what do we do with them?

I say they are our people, and we should throw money at them, but indirect money thrown in a sort of sidelong fashion.

The typical argument against chucking cash at bums goes as follows:

“If I give this nickel, over which I have toiled with the sweat of my brow, to this bum offending my good and keen senses – won’t he buy booze with it, go bananas, and plague my neighborhood with indecent exposure and public urination?”

Good point. Pee smells. And alcohol is indeed the craven object of your stereotypical, Joe Shmoe, public park menace. The organization Real Change, Not Spare Change would back your instinct to preserve your pennies.

Instead, the campaign, a collaborative effort of local government, businesses, and Casa Esperanza Homeless Center, encourages people not to give money to homeless people. Donating instead to the program would put those funds to use nourishing folks off the street.

This means food, not drugs, and a warm place to sleep away from parks and beaches. It means medical attention, and a return back from the street for those who can make it.

Whatever your feelings for homeless people, everyone wants the same thing. The movement is making it easy for people to put money where their mouth is. If the community is in line with their goals, it should do its part by enabling this organization to do its best.

If one is plain offended by some whimpering Shmoe, or simply fears the wrath of her immutable crack addiction, texting “changesb” to 85944 will donate a mind-easing $5.

Or perhaps, like me, you love the jangle of spare change made useful in the tin of some downtrodden fellow. The program has collection boxes. Buying him or her a burger is also still on the table.

If you really, really want to do something, go to realchangesb.com and donate time, money or goods. While you’re at it check out Casa Esperanza’s website which will assure you your dollars are put to effective use.

The Daily Sound indicated that this program is not raising sufficient funds and may be at risk. It would be a great shame to see such a good idea go to waste from lack of public support.

Throwing money at a problem makes sense if it brings about real change. When a program as sound as this asks for a handout, I think chucking as much cash as possible is exactly what should be done.