Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some Examples Of Charity Gone Awry, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,Helping The Less Fortunate In A Land Of Plenty

I have written about Emil Van Horn elsewhere on this blog. He was "Hollywood's Most Famous Motion Picture Gorilla".   Check the list to the right of this to find what I have written about him before. He was down and out when I first met him in New Orleans in 1965. He was living with two or three other men in a small room in an old apartment building on Gov. Nicholls Street near Decatur Street. That was in the New Orleans French Quarter but it was a run down kind of place. They had one or two small rooms. Then the men disappeared. They may have been oil workers or maybe they shipped out on a merchant vessel.

Van Horn had no money so he became homeless. I had bought an old 1955 Studebaker and I wisely kept nothing in the car and the doors unlocked. I had discovered if you kept something in your car the vandals would break the windows to get in to steal whatever they could find. I figured I would let them look if they wanted to. I had nothing in that car but one pencil in the glove compartment.
Feeling sorry for Van Horn I told him he could sleep in the car. It went OK for awhile. But then one day I found a pee stained sheet on the back seat.  I told Van Horn he had to move out.  Where he went after that I do not know but he still continued to come by our apartment to visit during the day. I would let him sleep on the couch while I typed away.
One time I invited him to have the evening meal with us. I also invited two of our friends. They were polite but not much more. They were trying to join "society" in New Orleans and this was not what they had in mind.

When we moved to Washington D.C. we lived near Dupont Circle. Since the apartment did not have a washer and dryer I would take out clothes down the street to the laundramat. In the winter it was a place some homeless would sleep back by the dryers.

One of the bums asked me for some money. I told him I would not give him any money but I would give him something to eat. I told him to follow me the one block to our apartment. When I opened the door Rachel saw him and said, "Joe, don't bring that bum up here!" I told her I was just going to give him something to eat. We walked up the stairs. I told him to wait in the living room and that I would go get him something to eat. I went back to the kitchen and made him a sandwich. When I came back to the living room with the sandwich he had his back to me and was facing the mantle. He had his had in a box on the mantle that contained some small amount of money. I asked him what he was doing. He turned around removed his hand from the box. I gave him the sandwich and told hin to leave.

  I have a friend who worked with his wife helping the homeless in Washington, D.C. They used to work for a charity or their church and they would go around and deliver meals to the homeless in D.C.
    They did this out of a van. Crowds would gather for the free meals. He is a big guy and part of his job was to try and maintain some kind of order among the crowd.  One time he saw a homeless guy eyeing him. Then a few minutes later he felt a prick. The guy had stabbed him with a needle. My friend had to go to the hospital and get checked out and take some shots and be tested for aids. Lucky for him it was not an infected needle. They no longer do this charity work.

I have a friend here named Sam who plays the ukulele. He is homeless and plays his ukulele and also pan handles down at the train station in D.C. Union station is a good place to pan handle even though someone stole his ukulele when he went to the bathroom even though he had asked someone to watch his stuff while he was gone.

   I was told he did right well the two days before Christmas panhandling outside Union Station. He got 180 dollars each day. $360.00 for two days is not bad. Some gave him 5 dollars some gave him ten dollars and even a few twenties. Churches took up collections and put them in envelopes. The little children would put their one dollars or so in also. Then someone would deliver the envelopes to Sam and hand them to him.
Sam has dirty clothes and long hair. He really looks the part. He also has a sad expression on his face. Very rarely does he look people in the eye. He keeps his head and eyes lowered. Sam is a very smart well educated person. He has worked before but now he lives on the street. He keeps his possessions in a storage unit. He pays for the storage unit each month but does not have an apartment or a room. The homeless in Arlington get food every day from local churches. They had a Christmas meal from 2pm to 4pm yesterday at a church here in Arlington. Sam was there I was told by someone this morning.

  Sam has been banned from several places where he would go to get warm. One of them is the library. They have a rule that you cannot sleep in the library. They warn the sleepers once and then ban them the next time they catch them sleeping.

I first saw Sam last year sleeping out in the cold in a bus shelter. He would sleep in his sleeping bag all night and then later come in the McDonald's and go sit quietly in a booth and go to sleep. They let him do this for a long time. I finally went over and struck up a conversation with him. I was surprised to find he was so well read and well educated.  And he has talent also. He is quite good on the ukulele and is a good singer as well.
  But the people that come in McDonald's finally complained that he smelled bad and he was told to leave and not come back. So he stayed outside in the cold.

  Last year there was also a woman who slept out there in the bus stop shelters. She finally drove Sam away because she would not stick to one shelter. She kept moving back and forth to the one across the street and leaving a big mess which Sam said attracted rats. So he left and now sleeps somewhere down near the Central Library. He takes to metro into Union Station each day and comes back in the evening.
   I went looking for him today down by the library but he was not there. I feel he must be down at Union Station doing his thing.

A-SPAN helps the homeless in Arlington, Va.