Monday, May 14, 2007

Networking the Financially Needy

In August I wrote about two people I talk to often who beg for money on street corners. The woman I'll call Ann I knew pretty well; The man I'll call James I had just met.

In the months since then, Ann has pretty much given up on her corner, and gotten a bit dipressed. Her corner is a rotten one. It has a lot of traffic, but there is nowhere for her to be beside a driver's window. People driving alone who might want to help her would have to get out of their car, either during a red light or by pulling off into a grocery store parking lot. Moreover, some people habitually drunk decided they liked that corner and began causing problems.

James had a pretty ideal corner. His was along a major one-way street, so he could stand on the driver's side of the road and from the left lane be an easy person to hand something to. This corner is also beside a grocery store, which allows him to get a soda on a hot day. (Drinking soda has the added benefit of convincing motorists he does drink things that lack alcohol.)

In the last few months, James had developed a partnership with another fellow named John. They would stand on diagonally opposite corners of their intersection, trading off now and then. This kept them from competing for donations, but allowed them to look out for each other if someone drunk and troublesome came along.

A little while ago James got drunk, agreed to help a friend burglarize a building, and got arrested. He'll be in jail a while. When I heard about this last week I visited John and asked him if he is looking for a new partner. When he said he was interested, I told him about Ann and her situation.

I offered to pay John a little if he would help introduce her to his good corner, and look out for her at least until she figures out the subtleties of maneuvering her electric wheelchair on the that corner's sidewalks. John was very happy. Even aside from my offer of pay, he was worried some drunks would claim the now vacant diagonally opposite corner and cause problems.

Then I called Ann, and ran the idea by her. She was also happy with the plan.

So tomorrow morning I have a breakfast appointment with Ann at that second grocery store. We'll invite John too, and I'll introduce them.

Ann is still avoiding my offer of going together to visit the local social services office to make sure she is getting all of the kinds of help for which she qualifies. Maybe if things go well tomorrow that potentially more significant appointment will be closer to happening.