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Some People Just Can’t (Pan)Handle Reality

, , , | Working | October 29, 2019

(I used to work at a store, but have since gotten a job in human services working with the mentally ill. Essentially, I’m a life coach for the people on my caseload and one of my duties is to secure their money and give it to them when they need it throughout the month for the things they’ve budgeted for. One of the women on my caseload is someone who used to frequent my former employer and walk around aimlessly before asking someone to call her a cab. When we’d call her a cab and say where she was going, the cab companies would refuse to pick her up and say they won’t go to her destination. Whenever we would tell her this, she would go stand outside and wait for close to half an hour before walking off. I later learned she would walk a mile down the road to another plaza and panhandle there, asking for rides, money, food, or all of the above. One day at my new job, I take this woman grocery shopping and afterward give her her spending money for the month, which is budgeted for her to spend on whatever she wants. Later that day after I get out of work, my friends pick me up and we go to the bookstore located in the plaza down the street from where I used to work. When we’re leaving and I’m getting in the car, I hear a familiar voice on the other side of my car as someone addresses my friend.)

Familiar Voice: “Excuse me, sir, but do you have any change you can spare so that I can go get a meal to eat at the [Italian Chain]? I don’t want to go eat at that disgusting [Burger Chain] or fast food place because that’s so bad for you, but I’m so hungry and have no food or money myself and don’t even have a place to sleep.”

My Friend: *in an uncomfortable tone* “Sorry, I don’t carry cash on me. Wish I could help.”

Familiar Voice: “Well, bless your heart; would you be able to give me a ride to [Italian Chain], instead, then? I haven’t eaten in several days and I’m sure some nice person there can help me.”

(While my friend stutters out a response, I come around the other side of the car and confirm it’s the woman on my caseload who I gave the money to earlier that day. She does not notice me and continues asking my friend for a ride.)

Woman: “If you could find it in your heart to help a poor, hungry woman get a healthy meal, it would be ever so kind. I haven’t had anything to eat in days and I’m so hungry and have no money.”

Me: “You haven’t eaten in days, you say? [Woman], why didn’t you tell me that after I brought you grocery shopping today? I could’ve helped you fix something up for yourself back at your apartment.”

(The woman turns to me slowly with a blank look on her face, which is her baseline, and I see the recognition in her eyes.)

Me: “And you don’t have any money at all? Did someone take the money I gave you earlier? That was more than enough to get a cab to [Italian Chain] and get yourself a nice meal there. But you said you don’t have a place to sleep, didn’t you? Did something happen at your apartment? Did you let [My Boss] know so she can get you a respite bed?”

(At that, the woman hmphed at me, turned around, and walked off towards the other end of the parking lot. My friend was standing there looking very confused, and I quickly explained that I work with the woman and had given her money earlier that day after taking her grocery shopping. The last I heard, she was still panhandling but word got out that she did not need the money or the rides, and so people have stopped giving her anything. I heard that she is mentally doing much better and her symptoms are in remission, but I guess old habits die hard.)