Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Affluent Beggars" Create Moral Dilemmas Everywhere

I came across this item about a family who are in their early 30's and support a family of five panhandling in the streets of Ashland, Oregon. The couple, Jason Pancost and Elizabeth Johnson make about 30-40k a year as panhandlers. They have managed to carve out a semblance of a life for their children, while raising the ire of their community. They have been accused of being poor role models for their children, abusers of the food stamp program, tax evaders, and they have been asked to leave several downtown establishments because shop owners feared that they would draw unneeded attention and drive customers away.

In reading this, I don't thing that it is altogether suprising when you consider that:

  • They both come from abusive childhoods
  • They have a fear of being apart
  • They have experimented with drugs and alcohol
  • They are afraid to get a job, becuase they fear being seperated from their children
They have been I do not know how much a panhandler makes per year, but the fact that they refer to themselves as "affluent" is alarming. It is a by-product of the general state of the country which, as time goes on does less to encourage people to rise above their circumstances, but seems to want to keep them there.

Consider these facts from the U.S. Census Bureau on poverty in 2004:

  • The official poverty rate in 2004 was 12.7 percent, up from 12.5 percent 2003.
  • In 2004, 37.0 million people were in poverty, up 1.1 million from 2003.
  • Poverty rates remained unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent) and Hispanics
    (21.9 percent), rose for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2004, up from 8.2
    percent in 2003) and decreased for Asians (9.8 percent in 2004, down from 11.8
    percent in 2003).
  • For children under 18 years old, both the 2004 poverty rate (17.8 percent) and the number in poverty (13.0 million) remained unchanged from 2003. The poverty rate for
    children under 18 remained higher than that of 18-to-64-year olds (11.3 percent)
    and that of people aged 65 and over (9.8 percent).
  • Both the poverty rate and number in poverty increased for people 18 to 64 years old (11.3 percent and 20.5 million in 2004, up from 10.8 percent and 19.4 million in 2003).

Even if you are not aware of the statistics, it still is very evident that there are people in everyday life that are in dire straits just like this. But I find that more questions get raised than actually gets solved about poverty. Some of the questions that I thought of where:

  • Does the government have an obligation to help families like this, even running the risk that they may not accept the help that you give them?
  • Why won't they go find help on their own?
  • Why won't they seek help from medical doctors to treat the remnants of an abused childhood?
  • Should they leave Oregon and try to make a life somewhere else?

There is no eay answers to these questions, but if you saw them what would you say to them? What would you do? Do you emphatize with them? Do you even feel in your heart the desire to pray for the children's well-being at least?

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