I Thirst.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”  —Matthew 8:20, RSV

I’m used to seeing people sorting through trash cans and dumpsters to find recyclable cans and bottles. I’m not used to seeing someone pull out discarded fast-food soda cups and drink whatever liquid is left inside, but I saw it yesterday. That, my friends, is the desperation of the homeless.

It isn’t easy to get a drink of water if you’re homeless. Those of us who have the luxury of a place to sleep and bathe and wash our clothes can usually walk into a McDonalds or Burger King and ask for a cup of water but homeless people, who are generally grimy and smelly, don’t expect a warm welcome. Michael Hubman has made it his mission to provide drinking water to the homeless population of Los Angeles’ “Skid Row.” He gets it.

Even before I saw the guy on the train platform drinking from someone’s discarded paper cups I was pondering the fact that so many homeless people drink beer, which is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t like to give them money when they see them on the streets. I realized that beer is cheap and filling. If you’re stomach hurts because you haven’t eaten it makes sense (in a heartbreakingly sad way) to buy a 40 ounce malt liquor. It isn’t nutritious but it does quench thirst and fill the belly.

A (not necessarily academic) study done in 2009 in Davis, California included these comments:

  • According to a study in the scientific journal Alcoholism, “[malt liquor] drinkers were more likely to be homeless, to receive public assistance for housing, and to be unemployed.”
  • Researchers at the Prevention Research Center reported in a 2003 study that “The findings of this study suggest that malt liquor use is associated with heavy and problem drinking, other drug use and behavioral problems among community college students.”

I don’t much care for bottled water. It’s wasteful, expensive, environmentally irresponsible and, in most places in the U.S., unnecessary. But I may start carrying it anyway… so I can give it away along with that handful of change.

via “I thirst.


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