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Veganism, Freedom and Helping the Needy

July 26, 2010

Today at the vegan potluck there were a couple of apparently homeless people who approached us. I thought it might be kind and friendly to invite them over to our meal, but I didn’t feel I had a right to do that, and that it may make my fellow meal-sharers uncomfortable. I can fully understand such feelings. Sometimes homeless people can be mentally ill, inebriated, or just plain “eccentric”, and as such, a little annoying. Of course this isn’t true of all of them. There are many I’m sure who would be perfectly agreeable and pleasant as dinner guests.

When I first moved to Washington, on one of my early potlucks, there was a young homeless man with a sign saying, “just hungry”. On a “do good” impulse, I turned right and then into the parking lot next to the sidewalk he was standing at. I invited him to the potluck I was headed for, although, as mentioned above, in retrospect, maybe this was not my invitation to make. But that reservation turned out to be academic, because he looked at me like I was some sort of pervert, and declined with a suspicious and disgusted look on his face. (Who could blame him?)

My question: Should individual Spokane vegans welcome homeless people they may happen upon on their way to the potluck to join in? Or would anyone feel uncomfortable about this and the event be “spoiled” for them? Absolutely no judgements against anyone who would feel this way. I’m just interested to know how different members feel about it.

I thought maybe Food Not Bombs Spokane might be a place to look into to indulge my “do good” vegan impulses, but their website was defunct and their My Space page seems to have been inactive for about three years. I couldn’t contact them through My Space because I’m not a member, and I don’t want to become one for various reason, one being I’m already a member of enough “social networking” sites I barely use and often can’t even keep track of. I would like to be a part of organized efforts to help the poor and homeless that don’t push a religion OR IDEOLOGY on them, that are as consistent with my veganism AND LIBERTARIANISM as possible. (We may laugh at and decry the Christians in their zeal to save souls and pressure the down and out to convert to their religion, but what are WE doing to help them?)

I’ve mulled over the possibility of starting my own very small project with the help of like-minded persons, but first I think I should try to investigate already existing efforts like Food Not Bombs and see how much I can work with them. Any information that would help me in this would be much appreciated.

Many thanks,  JND

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010 12:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, James. I had some similar feelings yesterday. I think anyone of us should feel free to invite whomever we wish to the potlucks. We represent ourselves as a welcoming and non-judgmental group, and that welcoming spirit should extend to the less fortunate among us as well.

  2. Andrea permalink
    July 27, 2010 7:37 am

    I think it’s ok to use your best judgement. You can introduce them as your friends, and not as “some homeless people I found along the way”. That way no one is uncomfortable because they are your guests and must be treated accordingly. That being said, I wouldn’t invite them if they were obviously inebriated or intoxicated. As a social worker, I can honestly say that would be a bad idea because you never know what random behavior is going to pop out, and then you can’t get them to leave. If they are sober and well-behaved, I don’t see a problem with sharing free food. And there is a group of young people that cooks food and serves it pot-luck style on the sidewalk outside of City Gate, but I don’t know who they are or what night they do it. I just happened to run into them while going to a concert at the old Empyrean. The homeless guys said it has been going on a long time, but totally under the radar so not many people know about it. Also, I might be able to help you arrange with House of Charity to use their kitchen for a vegan meal. It would take special permission and lots of coordination though.

    • July 29, 2010 10:06 pm

      Andrea, I’m pretty sure that’s Food Not Bombs you saw outside of City Gate.

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