Homeless People Shouldn't Make You Feel Sad Like ThatCommentary • Opinion • poor • ISSUE 38•02 • Jan 23, 2002 By Marisa Unger Marisa Unger I realize not everybody can make mid-six figures like my husband. But just because you're not as fortunate as others, that doesn't give you the right to go around depressing people. That's my problem with the homeless: They spend all their time shuffling around in their tattered, smelly clothes, making you feel awful about having a nice home and job. Well, I don't think they should make you feel sad like that. Whether you're stopped at a light in your Mercedes 450 SLC Coupe, shopping for a new pair of Manolo Blahniks, or strolling through the park, the homeless always show up to beg for change. Or they push around their rusty shopping carts full of empty cans and filthy plastic bags. How depressing! Of course, the homeless should be afforded a certain minimal level of human dignity, but they shouldn't get to lord their poverty over people. If the homeless want to be treated better, they should understand that people like me want to be able to enjoy a meal at an outdoor cafe without having to look at some scabby man digging through the trash. If they must hang around restaurants, why not go to fast-food places like McDonald's or Burger King, where people more like them tend to eat? They shouldn't hang around nice places. Decent people want to enjoy their mesclun salad without having to see a vagrant passed out on a bench, reeking of his own urine. Nothing kills an appetite faster. And why sleep on benches, anyway? Can't the homeless at least put the effort into finding a room at a city shelter? How can I head home on a frosty evening to enjoy a cup of cocoa and a warm bed when, along the way, I have to trip over a man sleeping on a grate? It's especially galling in light of the fact that my husband pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to buy places for these homeless people to sleep, and they aren't even using them. Instead they're sleeping outside, wasting our dollars, and making me feel bad, to boot. Though the homeless should be allowed to go almost anywhere they want without harassment, they should at least have the decency to go where people aren't trying to enjoy themselves. Stay away from the art museums and movie theaters. Do your loitering and panhandling outside places where people aren't having fun, like the DMV or dry cleaners. And, if I may make a request to any homeless person reading this, please don't ask for money from people with children. Trying to explain your miserable plight to a child is one of the hardest things a parent can do. They're too young to understand what makes certain people fall through the cracks of society, and it's not fair of you to force parents' hands with your presence. The homeless need to understand that other people have feelings, too, and that it's really pretty selfish of them to display their suffering out in the open like that. If they must be someplace where everyone can see them, can't they at least fake a smile? A smile is free, after all. Even a homeless person can afford that.