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Gripe : Forget Dolphins: Give to Beggars 'One-on-One'

September 27, 1993|MICHAEL DARE

Hollywood — Of all the lamebrained trickle-down consequences of the war on drugs, Santa Monica's attack on the homeless is the most shameless. Not only have they banned sleeping in the parks from midnight to 5 a.m., but they're placing a bunch of dolphin sculptures throughout Santa Monica, asking people to drop money into the blowholes rather than bestow their funds upon bona fide beggars.

The money put into the dolphins will go to agencies that will supposedly help the homeless get out of their rut, which is somehow considered preferable to giving money to actual human beings. These agencies probably do good. They might even deserve financing. But not at the expense of individuals in imminent trouble.

To the dolphin advocates, the challenge isn't how to help the homeless, it's how to protect tourists from Utah from being constantly hassled for money. They have no notion what it's like to have their backs up against the wall. When you are homeless, your problems are immediate.

There are people who are hungry right now, who are in need of a place to sleep tonight, not in a few weeks when an agency may or may not get around to them. To these people, begging is the only possible option to theft. Shouldn't we encourage the honesty of begging rather than the dishonesty of thievery?

I personally haven't given any money to a beggar in a long time simply because I'm one step away from disaster myself. Circumstances have forced me to identify. My rent is late, my utility bills have turned red, I'm two days ahead of the three-day notice, and so is most everyone I know.

The dolphins are for philanthropists who want to do something without having to actually contact their beneficiaries. The homeless prefer the hands-on approach.

There's a restaurant near Westwood that makes a daily trip to one of the public parks in Santa Monica with their leftovers. The homeless line up, and more than a dozen of them are treated to gourmet lobster dinners. There's an actor who regularly gets up in the morning, makes a giant pot of stew, goes to an alley in Santa Monica and pours it out to hungry people. The restaurant and the actor aren't doing it for publicity. They're doing it because it makes them feel good.

And that's the solution. Forget agencies. Personally give someone a hand. Display generosity one on one.

The dolphins are the ultimate example of limousine liberalism, of people who think they're solving a problem but who have never felt desperation, who have never experienced having nowhere to turn. Their logic is that homeless people don't know what's best for themselves, that they may squander their money on things like booze or drugs, as though painkillers aren't a perfectly reasonable thing to spend money on when you're in pain.

Nobody can sleep in the park because somebody might sell drugs there at night? Put the drugs in vending machines at the mall and the parks will immediately be dealer-free. Give the homeless anywhere else to go but the parks and the parks will be homeless-free. This whole attitude of passing a law against something in order to get rid of it is hopelessly archaic, not to mention heartless. So are the dolphins.

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