Friday, May 18, 2012

Every time someone in my travels suggests

that the government do something I generally go along with it for a while and ask for details and who would benefit from it. I play pretty sympathetic and act like the idea is a good one until I tire and then I blow the entire thing out of the water by asking one single little question.

Where are you going to get the money for this?

That generally blows the entire thing out of the water like a torpedo hitting a Liberty ship full of TNT if the person has even a quarter of a brain. If they are clueless, they look at me like I'm nuts and say, "We'll get it from the government."

Truth is that the feds do not own so much as one thing red cent. They get every nickel they have from the poor bastard that wakes up in the morning and goes to work. Every payday he looks at his check stub to see how much he has coughed up to the feds to give away to someone else. More often than not the someone else is somebody that doesn't deserve it.

I used to go to a certain church and just about every single time the church wanted to raise money for something one of the members would ask if we could apply for a government grant. I let this slide for quite a while until I grew tired of it.

Finally I asked Jimmy why he proposed the church resort to outright cowardly thievery. He went into shock and demanded to know what I meant by my comment. I told him that he didn't have enough moxie to pick up a gun or a knife and jackroll some poor slob for his wallet and that he was proposing having the government do the robbing of the poor joe by making him pay even more taxes.

Of course, if we are talking a federal grant here, this means the people in Idaho or Mississippi are being fleeced to help support some church in suburban Pennsylvania that they do not even know exists.

Fortunately the Pastor of that church was pretty sharp and thoughtful and I saw a look of enlightment on his face. He looked at Jimmy and told him that asking for government money wouldn't be the right thing to do.

A lot of things seemed to go over Jimmy's head so he wound up being pretty much ignored. Like the time I showed up with a bunch of venison for the monthly night we fed a local homeless shelter. A lot of the churchgoers were not hunters and commented that the homeless guys would turn their nose up at venison.

My comment is that if they didn't eat it then they really were not hungry.

The woman that was the cook told the naysayers that she'd be surprised to see a spoonful of it left. (She was right. The venison disappeared in a nanosecond and several of the guys asked if they were going to serve it again.)

Jimmy then suggested that the venison might have been poached. I looked at him and dryly told him that 'poaching is a Saxon thing. You wouldn't understand'. He immediately demanded an explaination.

"FIrst you put on your green tights," I explained. "Then you get a green hat with a pheasant feather in it and get your longbow and check your arrows for straightness and then grab Little John and off you go. Ya gotta be sneaky because if King John gets wind you get hung."

It went over his head again but did draw an awful lot of chuckles.

Truth is the church managed to feed all the guys at the local homeless shelter a decent meal for about a buck a plate, and maybe even less. When I supplied the venison it was a lot less. All of this came from local sources and didn't cost somebody in Idaho or Kansas anywhere else. It came from local donations and volunteer labor.

Of course, it the feds managed it they would spend millions on bureaucracy and equipment and it would be months before they ever got a single meal served. The food would have to meet government specifications and dieticians would have to approve everything to make sure everyone got the proper food groups. By the time it actually got served to anyone the whole process would cost so much a plate that it would be a whole lot cheaper just to give vouchers out to the homeless to eat $450 meal at a five star restaurant.

This latter may not be a bad idea. I can picture a group of homeless people clad in cast off clothes sitting down in Monsuier Pierre's French restaurant with a bunch of celebrities and other assorted limosine liberals, most of which would pick up and run. Then again, I can picture Bruce Willis sitting with them shooting the bull about the latest Steeler game and maybe taking a couple of them out with him after dinner straight down to the nearest ginmill, or maybe buying a case of beer and tailgating with them after dinner in the parking lot.

Bet you Prince Harry wouldn't bat an eyebrow. He'd find a couple that had been in the service and swap stories with them. Harry likes former GIs and is often seen gabbing with them when he's in the States.

But you can bet your ass that just about every other snooty uppity up in the joint would be crashing out the fire doors panic stricken and headed to their waiting limos in fear that some homeless guy would breathe on them. I wouldn't mind seeing that happen. I'd pay good money to watch Babs Striesand gasping in panic and busting through a fire door.

I think I am going to digress here and the hell with making a coherent post aboout the ineffiency of large governmant. I'll do that post later. I'll just write about the times I helped out at the homeless shelter.

It was interesting the way the thing was run and I know little about the politics or the way anything worked but the chow line although I did observe a few things. One night I got there early to watch the admissions process and they sort of checked people that were checking in for signs of drug or alcohol abuse. If you were high they did not let you in which was OK by me. The door person was pretty good at spotting anyone under the influence and took no guff.

Then there was a bedding issue where everyone there got issued bedding and they took it to the open barracks type of room and made their racks up. I could spot service veterans a mile away as they seemed to just whip right through the bed making process making neat hospital corners. One guy traded his fitted sheets for a set of flat sheets because he was uncomfortable making his rack up with them.

I saw one guy actually bounce a quarter off the bunk to insure it was tight enough. He actually borrowed a quarter to do this.

The non-vets tended to take forever to make their bunks and they looked a lot sloppier.

The conversations I overheard were interesting, too. There were really quite a few that were honestly looking for odd jobs to make a few bucks, while others wanted to know where the next handout was. I tended to ignore the latter and tried to help the former a bit and made a few suggestions.

It seemed to me that a few of the guys that were looking for jobs were not so much in need of a shelter so much as they were in need of a launching pad and a place to stay as they got back on their feet. One or two of them in particular interested me. One was a bull of a black man that looked like he could easily throw an anvil fifty yards. He also seemed to be pretty bright. I suggested he go down to the strip district and see if he could score any casual labor unloading fruit trucks.

The next month he saw me and told me he had struck out in the strip district but had scored a gig as a casual laborer at some warehouse nearby breaking down pallets after they were unloaded from trucks. He worked as he was needed and to insure he didn't miss a job he simply set up camp nearby and checked in several times a day. He was paid in cash for the days he worked.

I guess he made an impression of some sort on the boss man because he told me that as soon as there was a serious opening he'd get hired but only if he could figure out a way to get messages. I suggested he talk to the pastor of a couple of nearby churches and see if one of them would take messages for him until he could get on his feet. I recommended a Catholic church because I knew a lot of them had housekeepers and therefore the phone would be answered all day long.

This was before cell phones became inexpensive or the solution to this would have been a no-brainer.

I didn't see him the next month, but the month after that he showed up but not as an overnighter in the shelter. He was looking for someone.

What had happened is that someone had quit and that had made a regular job opening for him. He was no longer a casual, but a bona fide employee that was receiving a paycheck and was paying taxes. He had moved into a little room somewhere and his landlord would take messages for him. He had not come to get a place to stay or grab a meal. He had come because his boss had asked him to find someone else to take his place as a casual laborer.

There was one other thing, too. He had been homeless for a couple of years beforehand and wanted to know how to handle his taxes which were coming up. I told him that what I would do if I were him is simply go into an H&R Block and sit down for a free chat with one of the people there. Maybe someone would know what to do and how to explain things to the IRS. I figured the H&R Block people would know what to do and not fleece him too bad.

He was now on pretty sure footing and although he was unlikely to buy himself a Ferrari and an 8 bedroom house, he was taking care of himself, which is really all that matters. He had a job, a place to live and had gotten his pride back. He also must have been doing pretty well for his boss to send him out to find another guy to be a casual and replace him.

I didn't see him after that except for a chance meeting a few years later. I was downtown going to the County Building and we crossed paths at an intersection. He recognized me instantly and greeted me. We chatted briefly while we waited for the light to change.

He now had a halfway decent apartment and had salted some money away and had no car as he was a city guy and felt he really didn't need one at that point, preferring public transportation and walking. This was pretty viable for a city dweller.

He was running his own little crew, which he hired and fired and he asked me for one last piece of advice. He now had a steady girlfriend. I told him I wasn't touching that one with a ten-foot pole.

I'll admit this guy was an exception to most of the guys I met at the homeless shelter, but he was the most interesting one I met there. Most of them probaby wound up living under bridges and slept on gratings until they died at an early age.

Still, I enjoyed my trips to help out the church at the shelter and it confirmed my belief that the further down the feed chain you go the more efficient things are and that the answer is not big government but grass roots local programs.

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