My Daughter & The Homeless Woman

Last week my oldest daughter saw a homeless woman who sits at a busy corner near her house. The woman was there when she took Marley to school in an adjacent town. And she was still there when she came back.

And it was in the teens and very cold.

As the woman was walking through the Target parking lot my daughter pulled over and asked if she needed anything. She was only wearing tennis shoes and a jacket and pushing a cart.

My daughter went home and grabbed some insulated socks, hand warmers and a comforter and took them back to the homeless woman.

She said the woman wouldn’t look at her and was very nervous. Of course she was. Probably not accustomed to kindness.

My daughter asked again if she needed anything or would like to join her at the nearby Starbucks for a cup of coffee to warm up.

The homeless woman kept thanking her and telling her she didn’t have to do all that she was doing. But she didn’t seem to want to go along. I can hardly imagine that she would agree in her circumstances where survival is paramount.

Since my daughter could tell that she was making the woman nervous she asked her if she’d stay there and she would run into Target and get a wool hat and gloves and some cash to get coffee.

When my daughter came out of Target with her purchases a policeman passed by her walking in. She stopped him and told him about the homeless lady. She told him she didn’t feel comfortable offering her a ride to a shelter by herself.

But she asked him if he would take her to a shelter if the woman agreed to go.

He told her he couldn’t because of “liability.”

But my daughter said he had a gun and protection in his police vehicle that she simply did not have in hers. She didn’t think that was necessary, but one never knows.

The policeman chuckled and said: “They are everywhere and you can’t save them all.”

She was furious at his response. She went ahead and took the gloves and items she’d purchased to the homeless woman whose face was bright red from the cold wind, and gave them to her. She told her to stay warm and get some coffee with the money she gave her.

Of course by now my daughter was really upset and angry and began to cry in frustration. She said the woman acted like she didn’t deserve to be warm. And that just broke her heart.

She said she knows that people make their own individual choices and maybe the woman didn’t want to go to the shelter.

Maybe she didn’t feel safe there and had reasons why she would rather be sitting in freezing weather rather than be warm indoors.

Perhaps it is mental illness or shame or who knows what. But, my daughter kept saying: “She is a human being.”

The officer was right about one thing. You can’t help them all.

But on the other hand he could have shown a bit of compassion. Maybe he could have taken the time to attempt to help that one woman.

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46 Comments

  1. Happy Birthday, friend! I have nothing to add here that hasn’t already been said, but I think Esther’s comment about the starfish sums it all up. Your daughter made a difference to that woman, no doubt.

  2. Happy Birthday Brenda, wishing you a wonderful day.
    I live in a small town in OREGON and we have a lot of homeless people. I manage a small thrift store associated with our church. We hand out clothing, food and blankets every day. We ran a warming center for about 2 years and then the county stepped in with all the rules and regulations and they shut it down. Our Pastor gives propane and gasoline every day. A lot of the street people do not want to go to the shelters. We never give them money as it is used for drugs or alcohol most of the time.
    Most of the street people do get food stamps but by the last 2 weeks of the month that is gone.
    Look at both sides before you judge the police, because they have to follow the rules also.
    Have a wonderful day.

  3. Liability – a cop gives a ride to a homeless woman with some obvious reticence who then starts
    screaming ‘rape’ or kidnap or some brutality, with no witnesses. it can happen. having worked with
    law enforcement behind the scenes for a number of years, i have seen them exercise incredible
    patience with humans exhibiting the worst and most violent of behaviors, extending respect and
    encouragement to humans we would ordinarily shun or judge harshly. and yes, cops wake up every
    day with the higher probability than us that it could be their last or at least their last day in the same
    physical or emotional shape than the day before. yes, i know there are bad apples – everywhere in the human race. but don’t be too quick to judge. they’ve seen it all and can’t un-see it. there’s department policies…for a reason! and having personally helped/tried to help less fortunate people, it.is.complicated. the difficult truth is that officer is right, we can’t help them all, so we do what we can, as we can, with wisdom.

  4. No, we individually can’t save them all. but we can certainly do our part. As a country we need to do better to stop homelessness. As an individual I have run through McDonalds and taken food to a homeless person. I understand your daughter’s frustration. xo Laura

  5. Yes many homeless have mental and addiction problems. There should be programs for them. Getting to the root of the problem. Of course this involves government action and I’m aware that that isn’t a popular or easy solution either. But in the meantime they need our empathy and kindness. Your daughter was right and I’m sure the woman will never forget her. Maybe it gave her self esteem a little boost and she will believe she is worthy of help.

  6. Such a sad story that is seen every day all over our Country. I have heard that expression, “you can’t save them all”, in relation to homeless shelters but never relating to humans. I agree that mental illness or addictions are contributing factors to homeless, most likely. So sad. In defense of the Cop..he I am quite sure, works under rules and guidelines, and is not allowed to provide rides for the homeless in his squad card; however, seems there could be some kind of form that the person would sign that they are being driven as a courtesy and not against their will, and therefore, no liability…but of course all of that would be way too legally complicated..just like the World we live in these days. Sad..sad..sad.. Your daughter has a heart of gold, it sounds..

  7. By the Grace of God so go I.
    May God bless your daughter richly
    as she helped the lady that could not help
    herself,
    Happy birthday, Happy birthday
    Dear Brenda?I can’t sing
    but I Love you?
    ?
    Martha p

  8. I think that so many people have just been conditioned to look away or to not even notice homeless people because there are so many of them now. Earlier this winter my daughter and I noticed a homeless man on the corner playing his fiddle for money. Although we were in the left turn lane we got his attention and he ran across to our car to accept some money. My daughter said “look behind us mom” and for 3 lanes 5 or 6 cars in each lane were handing him money. Maybe they just needed to be reminded that person could be someone they love or even them self.

  9. The liability issue mentioned by the officer was correct. A civilian can’t ride in the police vehicle unless under arrest. If the vehicle was in an accident, then the passenger (who was just getting a ride and not under arrest) could sue the police officer and the Police Detachment. It doesn’t matter that it was a female or male passenger. The officer as well could have a female prisoner as a passenger and would not have to call a female to transport her.

  10. I’m sure you’re proud of your daughter and her kindness. I know homelessness is a very complicated problem; but your daughter made a difference that day; think the officer should’ve called someone to help given the weather conditions. These are our fellow human beings no matter what put them on the street.

  11. After reading about your daughter helping the homeless woman I thought of the following story.

    One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

    Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

    The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

    The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

    1. Happy birthday Brenda! Esther, thank you for posting the starfish story. It immediately entered my mind when I read of Brenda’s daughters compassion. Have a wonderful day everyone!

  12. Just as we can’t judge the homeless woman, we can’t judge the policeman. Policeman these days, are much maligned and many are handicapped by restrictions put upon them. Homeless people are the creation of a society that feigns kindness and oozes tolerance but offers no real solutions to the unhealthy situations, created by them. We are in a very bad place, but if each of us individually can be as brave and loving as your daughter, all is not lost.
    Happy birthday to you and many more!!

  13. You raised a very loving and compassionate daughter. Yes, there are many homeless people, more than we’d like to think. Many do have mental problems and because of government, they’ve been kicked out of mental hospitals where they should be. I didn’t understand that policeman’s attitude, but he sees far more than we do and I will give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he has helped a few people along the way.

  14. I’m not sure if is a policy everywhere but I think the liability is a male officer can not transport a female alone, must be female officer present. If that woman would claim assault not only the city but the officer could be held liable.

    1. Brenda, first of all, Happy Birthday, and as someone earlier said, your greatest gifts are the daughters you raised. No, we can’t save everyone, but each of us could do one thing to help one soul. I remember a story that Mother Teresa told about a young woman who wrote to her asking to come to Calcutta to help her in her work. She answered her by saying it wasn’t necessary to come to India; just look in your own back yard and find people who are suffering from lack of food, shelter and lack of love. Your daughter truly was doing God’s work today.

  15. Most homeless people are either mentally ill or drug addicts, sometimes both. However, they are human beings that deserved to be treated with compassion. Your daughter was wonderful for helping this woman. I don’t encounter many homeless people here in the small town I live in, but I have personally stopped for a few of them (sitting by a store). Two were young men and another was a middle-aged man. I offered all of them food. Only one accepted (one of the young men).

  16. The plight of this poor woman breaks my heart! Your daughter is a wonderful, thoughtful and considerate person for helping. Who knows what the policeman had going on or what the liability would be. I don’t think judging him helps anyone. There are as many reasons for being homeless as there are people out there. They’re not all alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. So many have fallen on hard times and are unable to work for some reason, families have kicked young people out (some for being gay) and a thousand more reasons. What kills me are the veterans that have risked their lives for our safety and when returning home, our government does nothing to help them. I hate for any child to be in this situation.

    Years ago, I lived in an area in Ft. Worth that wasn’t too far from a homeless community. It was winter and bitterly cold. I made soup and a ton of PB & J sandwiches, packed them up and drove to that area. I would return home in tears each time but felt led to do it. Family and friends admonished me, not safe, etc. I always prayed to God before leaving, to please go with me and before me and to keep me safe. He never failed me!

    Like Mother Teresa said, “We can’t all do great things but we can all do small things with great love.”
    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday!!

  17. Your daughter did the right thing reaching out to the homeless lady. No one knows her mind but basic needs most of us can help provide to those less fortunate IF we have a heart and are willing to go out of our comfort zones. Your daughter has a heart, compassion and understanding. She is blessed cause had the policeman thought hard enough rather than make that callous statement, he would have called in for some social services or local church that would have gladly came out and convinced the woman to get somewhere warm and properly fed til proper people could guide her on options. We all have to help save one person cause programs are constantly being cut drastically by those who will never know what it’s like to walk in someone’s else shoes.

  18. Most of the homeless people are suffering from mental illness. It is a pity that since the 1970s we decided as a society to throw away such people. Government at all levels decided that rather than providing treatment and care for such people, it was better to give them their “rights” and let them wander the streets.
    One of my sisters worked at a county agency in our home state where the mentally ill people came in monthly to receive an allowance from their Social Security disability payments (if they qualified for such benefits, not all do) or Veterans’ pensions. Generally the money would be quickly spent on alcohol, drugs, cigarettes – not food, not shelter. Many of the homeless, but not a majority, are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Very few are actually just down on their luck, because a mentally healthy person knows they usually have options that will help them get back on their feet, although they may not always be the most palatable options. But a person suffering from mental illness – from what I understand it can be a nightmare for many of them to go to a shelter because of bullying and in some cases, violent assaults. Women are especially vulnerable to bullying by other women and possibly sexual assault by males. Yes, there are some shelters available but not enough to satisfy the demand. There is a particular lack of facilities to care for women only. Both genders and even families can end up in overcrowded facilities, that are under-staffed and ill-supervised. In climates like where I live, it can be a matter of life and death. Sadly, we usually don’t hear about how many homeless people die from exposure. Being homeless is nobody’s fault but it’s easier to judge a person as “lazy” or “worthless” and “deserves what they get.” But a mentally ill person makes illogical choices – they can’t be expected to reason like a person with normal brain chemistry. I wish more people could understand and try to visualize walking a mile in another person’s shoes.

  19. Thanks to your daughter for helping that women.
    I guess we should understand that officer might not be able to give them a ride. Liability is a big thing. I don’t what our rules are here for the police. I think that we may have to wonder what caused his attitude. Did something happen in the hours before or even the days before that made him act like that. We never know what he has seen as a cop. Not really excusing him, but trying to understand. Or maybe he is just a sour person. I could never be a cop or be married to one. Talk about stress.
    Happy birthday Brenda

  20. What a kind and sensitive daughter yours is. And what a callous ass that officer is. Of course you can’t help them all, but doesn’t helping just one person count? It certainly does to that one person. And if others and those like that officer helped just one a lot of suffering would be avoided. Just makes me mad thinking of his unfeeling and unhelpful response. Liability, my foot!

    On that note, Happy, happy birthday, Brenda! Hope your day has been a good one. If I lived next door I’d bake you a cake!

  21. That was awfully nice of your daughter, she’s truly a good person.

    I remember when I was in NYC, I would often bring a meal from a restaurant in a to go box and give it to the first homeless person I saw….often it was tossed back at me. They wanted money for booze or drugs, not food. Sad.

  22. Happy?Birthday?Brenda! Wishing you a wonderful day and year! Homelessness is a many faceted problem. As hard as it is the think of all the needy people in the world,I feel like we need to take care of our citizens first. Anyone who shows compassion helping others will be blessed many times over.

  23. Hi Brenda, your daughter was very wise, compassionate and caring and that goes a long way as to how you raised her. You must be very proud. Many years ago no, a homeless man approached me for a cigarette and when I gave him my newly purcased, unopened pack you should have seen the expression on his face. You see, I knew what it was like to crave a cigarette and not have any. I’m happy to say I haven’t had a cigarette in 22 years so that was a very long time ago.

    Happy ? Birthday. Your daughter did you proud.
    Hugs, Elaine

  24. Brenda, It has been awhile, but have been able to follow a bit of your blog again. Thanks for sharing this . Your daughter has been very compassionate about the plight of someone in a painful situation and further she took action to try to make a difference. She also was sensitive to the woman’s low self esteem and handled it so thoughtfully.
    Policemen in our area often go the extra mile. They see things day after day that most of us will never have to confront (thank God) and I have seen them reach out to help where they can.
    Is it true today that today is your Birthday?????
    If so, HAPPY Birthday, Brenda. May your year be blessed and full of good things.

  25. Happy Birthday Brenda! ?????
    You have a very kind daughter!
    Maybe we can’t save all the homeless at once, but one at a time works bc nobody should be out in those conditions!
    I just saw on utube that a millionaire took in a couple. He has plenty of room for his guests, so he invited them to stay there. It’s a very heartwarming story!
    Have a fantastic birthday today!

  26. You obviously raised a truly kind and compassionate daughter! Good job, Mom!
    Hope you have a perfect birthday, dear lady ~
    Hugs ~

  27. I agree with your daughter police are public servants and their job is to protect lives. A homeless woman out in the cold without proper protection to keep her warm to me is that her life is not protected and he should have stepped in to help. That is terrible to hear what he said. People are homeless for many reasons whether it is mental illness, no job or way to make money or drugs etc. In any event they are human beings and I commend your daughter for trying to do all she could to help this women out. Her kindness I know was probably appreciated. When you live on the streets I think you learn to not trust anyone and she probably was feeling that way towards your daughter’s act of kindness. Just glad your daughter’s kindness gave this women a sense of trust that no everyone is harmful and also supplied her with some comfort and warmth.
    Kris

  28. You would have thought the police officer would have a way of notifying some agency that could have helped that woman ! Happy Birthday Brenda ?

  29. awww I love how your daughter has the same heart of gold that you do. The woman was no threat to the officer, I wish he’d been more compassionate. I also wish that churches and big stores could somehow carve out a place to shelter at least one person while they work with them for a permanent solution. The buildings are heated and cooled – and in the case of churches – pretty much empty all week long with congregations who would gladly help out. But then again….”liability” – like the burglars who sue when they are injured breaking into a business!

  30. Such a loving story. And yes we can’t help them all. I suppose the police department takes a hard line on this. i know my husband was an LAPD detective and he was always giving money to guys on the st.

    Our homeless problem in Los Angeles is ridiculous. It’s probably not safe to even go down there if you don’t have to. A professor was advising just last night on the news to take your shoes off before entering your home or work if you have been down there due to the lack of sanitation for the homeless. Not a good situation. I have no idea how these people survive especially women. It is a sad state of affairs we have found ourselves in.

    On a happier note today is your birthday. Have a wonderful day! Love, Annette ???

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