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On Dumpster Diving

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When most people think about a homeless man or a “bum”, words like drunk, addict, and lazy come to mind. These characteristics are true in some cases, but in others it’s just a way of stereotyping people, like the notion that blonde girls are dumb or Asians are bad drivers. In the two articles “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner and “The Lady in Red” by Richard Lemieux, Eighner provides for himself free of cost by dumpster diving, but Lemieux is simply at what most people would call “rock bottom” of his life at the time, so he resorts to begging people for money. These two men are not your typical drunk bums hanging out behind a dumpster, they are honest people just trying to survive. It’s wrong to look at every homeless person and attach a negative stereotype, because you can’t tell much about a person until you view their actions. But at the same time, it’s necessary to realize that those stereotypical homeless people do exist.

Every once in a while a homeless person will ask me for some money outside of a grocery store or someplace else, and I usually say no because their physical appearance leads me to believe that they are that typical homeless man who is trying to go get a beer or a pack of cigarettes (which is wrong, but most people like myself are raised to believe that homeless people are that certain kind of stereotype). And secondly, I worked for my money and I need that to pay for things that I need like food, gas, and a roof over my head. I don’t have a surplus of money to be giving it out to anyone who asks. I would give out some money if it was a woman or a child, but I’m less likely to give out money to a man because I feel like a man should always be able to support himself. At least Eighner does what he has to do to survive by scavenging through dumpsters to find any food worth eating, but Lemieux refuses to lower himself to eating out of trash, so he begs people for money instead.

But most of the people reject him with comments like “Get a Goddamned job, you bum!” just to put him down and lure him away from the area. I always get confronted by this one kid with the most typical excuses like “my car ran out of gas” or “I need to get to the sprinter”. He looks to be about 19 or 20 years old, and he has asked me for money several times using those excuses and I can instantly tell that he’s lying because of his appearance. So of course I say no to him every time because I’ve seen him all around Escondido and San Marcos literally chasing people down just to ask them for some change or a few bucks. I know that he’s got gas in his car – it seems that he’s just too lazy to get a job. If he can drive to a grocery store parking lot to chase people around asking for money, he obviously is capable of working a job, so that’s why I choose not to help him out.

You may wonder…why doesn’t Lemieux or Eighner get a job? Why can’t they get out of this rut that they are in right now? Well in Eighner’s case, he simply doesn’t want to get a job or change his lifestyle because he likes where he is at right now. Of course he would like to live the consumer life, but after living off the refuse of others, he would only live a less wasteful consumer life because he sees how wasteful people really are. He actually equates himself with the rich because material items hold no value to him, just as rich people throw away so many items. He provides for himself by scavenging through dumpsters to find food worthy of eating, and his system is working just fine! He won’t eat certain things like leafy vegetables because they could very well be contaminated by liquids, and leafy vegetables out of a dumpster sounds disgusting. He is also weary of foods that look to be perfectly fine, and reasonably so.

There has to be a reason for somebody to throw that away, and you have no way of telling what that is, so it’s not worth the risk. In the end, it all comes down to the necessities like food, water, and a place to sleep. Eighner has all of that, so he is a happy man with no other needs in life. Lemieux on the flip side, is not happy about the situation he is in. He went from being a corporate man wearing suits and ties, to a dead broke beggar living out of his van. The article doesn’t go into detail about his previous profession or how he lost all of his money, but what is important is the fact that he has a life savings of 64 dollars and 50 cents right now. That’s a tough situation, and it would take some serious work and will power to make a comeback from that point. If I were him, I would definitely be looking for a job. Since he has corporate experience he has to have a decent resume, it’s just a matter of surviving for that short bit, having enough gas in your car to get from place to place. As my old teacher would say, opportunities are passing us by all the time, we just have to open our eyes and pay attention in order to grab ahold of one and make something out of it.

If someone was asking for some money and they looked like a normal person who was down on their luck and actually needed it – of course I’d give them a few bucks, because I would feel bad for them and it feels good to help out and not be selfish. It has not personally happened to me yet but when it does, I will stay true to what I said. It did happen for Lemieux though…while he was homeless he kept asking for god to send him an angel to help him out during his troubles. One day he was pan handling, but mostly getting brutally rejected and put down, so he decided to move to another spot and try his luck there. Fortunately for him, he met a lady in red and she gracefully gave him 64 dollars and some change. Ironically, she had a pin of an angel on her coat, so it turns out that god did help him out, he just had to go look for his angel.

In conclusion, not all homeless people are those drunk, drug addicts that we picture in our heads. Some of them could be people just like you and me who just need some help during a tough time. Those stereotypical homeless people do exist, but I feel that they are less likely to be seen as much as the other guys, and even if they are around – I’m not giving them any money! But in a time of need, I think it’s the right choice to lend a helping hand and give out a few extra bucks to a person like Lemieux, who could really appreciate it and put that money to good use.

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