Anyone who lives or works in any major city deals with homelessness on a regular basis. In traveling more than a few blocks to lunch, the office, or the bus stop, one cannot help but notice the expectant mother sitting at the curb, the scruffy man shaking a paper cup, or a body curled up in a sleeping bag. The beggar, like anyone else, has a right to be there. The difference between him and most others traveling the sidewalks is their destinations. The homeless men and women set up their signs, pose their pets, spread their blankets, and get to work.
Our thoughts are interrupted by their disheveled appearances and needy pleas. We immediately sort through a rush of uncomfortable feelings, running the gamut of annoyance to compassion. We recognize that these people, too, are human. The beggar quietly or not so quietly demands a response. We toss some change at the extended cup or look the other way. Sooner, or later, most of us simply ignore them.
Steve Rhoades spent fifteen years busking and panhandling in cities all over the country.
After another fifteen years of reorienting his life in a quiet community across the Puget Sound from the same city, he went back. He returned to beat the same streets in an effort to help others do what he finally did.
Bringing hats, chocolates, and a fold-up chair for sitting and chatting, he works hard to convince them that they don’t have to live that way. They can return to sanity and get their lives back.
In Steve’s candid and exclusive interview with Extreme Sobriety – the non-profit outreach he has since founded – he offers an inside perspective of the Seattle street life and why many remain homeless. He answers the ongoing question of how we ought to respond to those living on the streets. Should we give or not give to the panhandler? Click here for the Interview.