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Thursday May 26th 2022

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Do Whatever You Want

Do Whatever You Want

Peace House Community By MARTI MALTBY When people find out that I have worked with the homeless, they sometimes ask me if they should give money to panhandlers. I used to give the standard social work answer: “If you give them money, it could be used for drugs or alcohol. It’s better to give them a snack, or to donate money to agencies that help the homeless.” Eventually I realized how insulting and hypocritical that answer was. It’s insulting because it reinforces the stereotype that people are homeless because they use drugs and alcohol, or that all the homeless use drugs and alcohol. It also implies that they don’t know any better than to blow their money on things that won’t improve their situation. And this coming from social workers who say we’re trying to reduce the stigma of homelessness, and that we care for the people we “serve”. It’s also hypocritical because it implies that the homeless shouldn’t drink, even though it’s okay for others. If you have dinner at my house, I’m likely to offer you wine or beer with the meal. Not only am I removing any doubt about whether the money will be used for alcohol, I’m actively promoting the consumption of “spirits”. Heaven forbid someone who is homeless touch alcohol, though. These days, when I’m asked about giving out money, I just say “Do whatever you want.” I don’t mean to sound flippant when I say this (okay, yes, I do), but I want to recognize that there is no one answer that will fit each situation. If someone feels strongly that they should not hand out money, I have no objection. I just ask that they say “no” respectfully and without derision. If they want to offer the person a snack or some socks instead, wonderful. But if someone decides to give money to a panhandler, trusting that they will use it to buy themselves food or to get on a bus, I won’t criticize them. They are being generous and showing faith in another person’s goodness and [...]

Raise Your Voice:

Raise Your Voice:

Headstone Markers By PETER MOLENAAR Note: the stone for my own “resting place" has been chosen, hopefully ahead of time. December 30, 2021… Readers of the alley know Sue Hunter Weir is this neighborhood’s “master of cemetery.” It was at the American Swedish Institute’s open house that we chatted while tabling for the paper. She was stunned to learn from me that Lynne Mayo had passed away in September of 2020. I had only just recently come to know this myself… no thanks to COVID. It was via the 17th Avenue Community Garden that Lynne had become a “significant friend” some 20+ years ago. As life went on, geography and our common activism created occasional encounters, the last one taking place at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a venue that day for a global warming protest. Why had she turned her head away? I realize now that a cancer was developing. Hey, I am grateful for the imperfections within persons whose lives have been so much larger than my own. Consider the life of Clyde Bellecourt. It was 30+ years ago that a misunderstanding occurred between the two of us. Then, a little more than a decade ago, I would balk before entering a discussion circle at the American Indian Center. Clyde was presiding, but he beckoned me to enter. It was always a cordial recognition between us after that.  Final encounters… The COVID cloud had thickened. Clyde had written an article for the alley which upheld our Urban Farm proposal. Ten copies were to be delivered to his house. His prolonged reticence at the door made an impression, after which he received the paper every month without my knocking. In the end, it was the cancer, not COVID, which “brought him home.” Missing from the nomenclature of phobias is a word designating fear of getting dressed up to enter a place of worship. Yet, that barrier was to be overcome in [...]

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