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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The golden rule

A case of "my house, my rules":

BLOOMINGTON, IND.(AP) - A Bloomington shelter for the homeless is implementing a new code of conduct for residents that bars them from asking strangers for money.

Members of the board of directors for Martha's House say the new policy is designed to help the homeless become self-sufficient. Another policy barring residents from drinking alcohol or using unprescribed drugs while staying at the shelter has a similar goal.

Board member Darryl Neher said the panhandling prohibition is not designed to be punitive, but to create a supportive atmosphere for individuals who are struggling to stay clean and sober

"Those seeking services at Martha's House want help finding a way out of their situation," Neher told The Herald-Times . "This new code of conduct should not be viewed as a barrier, but as something that will help facilitate that process."

Bob Miller, president of the shelter's board of directors, said he believes that most of the people who panhandle in Bloomington use the money to buy alcohol or illegal drugs.

I know a lot of people will see the rules as punitive, or at least as smug moral preening or some such. But it depends of the ultimate goal of the shelter, doesn't it? If the point is merely to provide a place for the homeless to get out of the weather for a night or two, then the rules probably are superfluous and unnecessarily intrusive. But if the aim is to actually improve the lives of these people, then setting rules aimed at reducing self-destructive behavior as a condition of getting help is perfectly rational. Refraining from panhandling for a few days to receive accomodations isn't going to magically change anybody's character. But making a conscious choice to trade a perceived wrong fora promised benefit involves the kind of cost-and-benefit analysis the shelter's customers aren't used to making.

And isn't it nice to see strings attached to the money? The usual government approach, by way of contrast, is, "Ooh, I see a problem, so here's some money." Then there is great consternation that the problem hasn't been solved by the money! Again.

Posted in: Hoosier lore


Harl Delos
Mon, 12/03/2012 - 9:14pm

There's money, and then there's money.

I'm all for pulling up by your bootstraps, but that's hard to do if you have no boots. 

My grandfather died bwhen Momma was 13.  His widow had three other kids, including 2 preschoolers.  She enrolled at Bowling Green two weeks later, farmed out all the kids to relatives for the summer, and was able to get a provisional teaching certificate under Ohio's "pilot" program, and was taking care of her kids and teaching school that fall on the strength of one semester of college.

But things are different now.  You can't work your way through college any more, and if you have to drop out of college because of an inconvenient pregnancy, you gave to pay back the college loans for the first part of your education before you can get any more loans and finish your degree so you can get a decent job that will let you pay off your college loans.

Dad wanted to buy 20 acres about 50 years ago.  Banks weren't lending of bare dirt, and the folks at Federal Land Bank said they would be happy to loan him money to buy 500 acres, but not 20, because if he lost the land he was farming on shares, he couldn't service the loan.  He borrowed the money from his father agreeing to pay it off in fice years, and he paid it off in two, but from then on, Grandpa constantly lorded it over Dad, that he'd made that loan, even though Dad paid 8% when Grandpa was only getting 2% from the bank.

Their bat and nall, so they get to make the rules, but if you're teaching a man to fish, you really need to make sure the man has the fishing tackle he needs.  There used to be a joke about the difference between the GOP and the democrats.  Seeing a man drowning 1-- feet off shore, the Democrat throws a 100 foot rope, but he doesn't hang onto the end of it; he instead rushes off to rescue someone else whp is drowning.  The Republican holds onto the end of the rope he throws, but it's only 50 feet long, because swimming the other 50 feet is good for his moral character.

I think that recipients of largess need to ask strangers - and they need to ask for enough to make a permanent improvement in their situation.  Giving them only enough to eat tonight is a waste.