By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
The victim who said he didn’t want to use his name for safety concerns, told KOB TV’s Kai Porter, “I turn this way and he’s coming at me and he struck me, broke my glasses – these are my spare glasses – and then we started tumbling and I put him in a head lock.”
KOB said the man added, “I managed to get my phone out with my other hand and called 911. So I had an active 911 call going on, and then about that time he tried to grab a knife, I dropped the phone, held his hand down and was screaming for help.”
Police finally showed up and arrested the panhandler, KOB reported. The victim took a picture of a syringe he said fell out of the man’s pocket.
Is it possibly safe to say that the panhandler quite likely had some mental health issues? Do we perhaps need to look beyond the panhandling to the laws regulating certain behaviors occurring as a result of mental illness?
It is unlikely that such a person would follow the advice on all the numerous blue signs that have sprouted up around Alb to call 311. And if he did, what could the operators do? This seems to be a case way beyond the ability of 311 or shelters.
Facebook friends of Joy Junction quickly weighed in after I asked them what they thought.
Kelly said had the man responded to the panhandler in a more respectful fashion, chances are he would have had no reason to become physically violent.
She added, “I am in no way condoning the alleged attack but in the words of little kids everywhere, ‘he started it.’”
Jerry commented, “Maybe this man has tried to get a job or is not employable. And Albuquerque’s little blue signs are not much help, especially for the mentally ill. Positive solutions need to be found.”
Terry said when people are cold and hungry, the best thing to do is to be kind.
She continued, “I have a job and a home, but am getting older and when it is very cold out and I have to be out in it, my bones hurt etc. Think about people who are trying to figure things out, and having to be there all day until they can get it together. The victim could have just said, ‘I’m sorry but no.’ The ‘F’ words brings about ugliness, no matter who it is directed to.”
Mary seemed to understand, saying that many panhandlers have issues that prevent them from getting a job.
She added, “This guy is a jerk. If you don’t want to give them any money, a simple ‘No’ or ‘Not today’ is sufficient.
Liz echoed that sentiment, saying a simple “I’m sorry I don’t have any money would’ve done.”
“ Instead,” she added, “ he thought it was appropriate to demean and be disrespectful to the panhandler. Respect is a two way street … Looks like he got what he deserved, and the panhandler got a free night’s stay in a warm place and a meal.”
Commenting on the KOB website, Thebes said “The junkie panhandler he insulted was probably too mentally ill to ‘get a f#^%ing job.’”
He added, “I’m not saying the junkie should have beaten him up, just that if we dealt with mental illnesses as a disease rather than the mentally ill as criminals- this probably never would have happened.”
Also writing on the KOB website, John reminded readers that the law is unable to deal with mental health issues. It is basically against the law to hold anyone without their consent, and getting an order of involuntary commitment is not an easy matter.
He continued, “This ‘violation of their civil rights’ has been going on since the 1970’s, which is why most mental hospitals in this country were shut down.”
Our insistence on giving the homeless mentally ill their civil rights will end up pushing some of them right into an early grave, and ruining the lives of innocent citizens along the way.
We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about issues besetting our community. The homeless in general and the homeless mentally ill in particular are those about whom we should be concerned, not cuss at.
I am not condoning the attack, but as Gary said on Facebook, the “victim” shouldn’t have provoked the panhandler.
He added, “ People ought to know that a loose mouth might get popped. Solomon said as much too, didn’t he? ‘A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.’” (Proverbs 18:6).
It’s time we stopped whitewashing the real issue with blue signs and talked about a real solution before someone gets really hurt – again.