Sometimes we fail to help

Today after work I was on my way down to catch the bus and a tall homeless man stopped me kindly to ask for some help. He explained that his camp had been robbed and he'd had his sleeping bag stolen so he needed some money to get a new one. As usual I didn't have any cash to give the man so I apologized and asked if I could buy him dinner someplace instead. He wasn't interested in dinner and fixated on cash for the sleeping bag asking me if I could find a cash machine somewhere to get him some money. So many feuding desires and thoughts. I had no reason to doubt the man; he did not seem to be under the influence of anything - and I'm getting better at telling on a whim but I'm sure I'm not as good at it as I think I am. Still, having worked through the whole cash issue in my head, and in my blog, to a certain degree before this interaction, helped me decide quickly and rather comfortably, however still not happily, that I would not give the man money...especially not in the amounts necessary to help him purchase a sleeping bag. So I opted to give him some alternatives instead of getting him money.

I asked him if he knew about the Union Gospel Mission Men's Shelter and told him that they would be able to help him for the night and get him some warm things. Unfortunately, and I've run into this quite often throughout the city, he has been barred from not only UGM but from all the homeless shelters in the city. I'm still not quite sure how the system works but certain actions can get one barred for life while others warrant a stern warning that can lead to barring if it's not heeded. In any case, the shelters were not an option to him - this still troubles me but there's nothing I can do about it now so it is a problem for another day.
Next I made sure that he knew about the Search and Rescue vans that the UGM shelter sends out, though I imagine he is more knowledgeable about them than I am, because the volunteers in those vans will help anyone with a need without regard to where you've been barred. From these vans I told him he could obtain blankets enough to keep him warm. When he said he already had some blankets but they weren't warm enough I just maintained that he could get more if he needed them. Finally he thanked me and walked off. I said I was sorry I couldn't help more and headed for my bus.

In the end I can't help feeling a little suspicious that he wouldn't accept any of the help I offered, but was entirely focused on what he wanted, cash. But as I think about it more, it's probably just an instance where I really didn't offer him anything at all...except dinner. Frankly, he probably knew about all the programs I mentioned and I was basically wasting his time, and him mine. Some people don't want the help we can give and that's just the way it is. All that's left for these folks is prayer, then we have to move on because there will always be more people that are eager to accept whatever meager assistance were're capable of providing...or willing to provide.

Late night posts are always the best, I hope there's a sentence or two in there that makes sense. :)