If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know I spend a lot of time outside in the nightlife scene of Philadelphia. If you’ve been here for any period of time you realize the homeless situation here.
You’ll see it in Philadelphia, just as you’ll see it in Detroit and Los Angeles and D.C. That omnipresence can make it easy to perceive homelessness as a thing that just exists — a problem cities have that they all treat the same way.
But the way the city of Philadelphia approaches homelessness is different than the way it’s approached in Detroit and Los Angeles and D.C. The root commonality in fighting homelessness across U.S. cities is that they all get funding from HUD. It’s the way those funds are deployed that differs from city to city.
Here’s a glimpse at homelessness in Philadelphia, and how it’s being approached.
First, let’s put things into perspective. Of 1.6 million people living in the city of Philadelphia, 400,000 were found to be living below the poverty line in 2015. Compare that to the city of Los Angeles where, out of 3.9 million people living in that city, approximately 873,600 are living in poverty.
Yet in Los Angeles, 21,338 homeless individuals were counted as not having shelter earlier this month. Philadelphia’s 2016 Point in Time count registered 705 unsheltered homeless individuals inside the city, according to Office of Supportive Housing Director Liz Hersh.
As of 2014, OSH tallied 3,644 beds across emergency, transitional and permanent housing facilities. Still, there are concerns that that number just isn’t enough.
“We don’t have enough,” said Misty Sparks, director of entry-level programs at nonprofit Bethesda Project. “I don’t think anyone should ever have to sleep outside, but if every homeless individual wanted to come into shelter on a given night, we would not have enough beds.
“I’m a firm believer that we always have 700 to probably 1,500 homeless in and outside of the city. In the winter the homeless count is much lower. In the summer it’s much higher.”
The homeless do get turned away when facilities are full — even youth.
It’s pretty sad and I am looking into some things I can do around the city to help solve this situation. The best one can do is to volunteer to help at one of the local shelters or for the publication One Step Away published by Resources for Human Development.
One Step Away is a newspaper that is written by homeless people and former homeless and contributing journalists. I may even write a piece for them.
But out of all of the homeless people I encounter on a daily basis, there is this one guy who always seems to pop up whenever I step out of a bar for a smoke. He’s sweet and articulate, and always has a joke for me. He normally does two or three and always has new material. As I said before, I don’t give money to the homeless people on the street. It doesn’t solve the problem. I’ll give food however, because food can solve an immediate need.
But this slight black man is different. He’s not panhandling like the rest of them. He’s making me think and making me laugh. So it’s not begging, I see it more as “street performance.”
There’s a difference. He does his bits, makes me laugh, I hand him a couple of bucks and he always tells me about the special at MacDonald’s that he’s going to spend his loot on.
I don’t even know his name. I really should ask him. Right now I refer to him as the Briddler. (the Black Riddler)
I saw The Briddler last weekend around Square 1682. He rolls up and opens with: “What do you call a black man flying a plane?
“I don’t know.”
“A pilot! What are you, racist?”
Oh, and then he always smiles and sings a little tune: “doo doo do doo doo.” After each punchline.
“How do you know if Will Smith has been walking through the snow?”
“I don’t know. How?”
“Fresh prints!” “doo doo do doo doo.”
“What did one testicle say to the other testicle?”
Ya know, just between you and me, that guy’s a dick.”
So that’s a couple of his bits. They’re cute and funny. But the other day he approached my buddy Church and I and did a different kind of riddle.
“What goes through water but doesn’t get wet?”
We both thought for a minute but couldn’t come up with an answer between the two of us.
“Light.” doo doo do doo doo.
“Good one, dude.”
“What lies on water but doesn’t get wet?”
This time I had an answer. “Oil. Because that creates and emulsion.”
“Or a shadow… doo doo do doo doo.”
“You’re killing me today with the science riddles, dude.”
“What did Cinderella say when she got to the ball?”
(He just starts gagging)
*That’s a fellatio joke for those of you that are a bit behind.
The Briddler is not a panhandler. He’s a street performer.
Apparently the owners of the popular nightclub, Rumor paid a years rent for him in an apartment. That’s incredibly generous, and will keep a roof over his head for a while.
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