A topic that bounces around the online prepping community frequently is what to do when unprepared people come knocking at your door or needing help in an emergency situation. The video I linked to in my last post mentions this topic, so I’m going to relate some real experiences I’ve had with helping strangers. One situation happened in 2013, when I was still working at my local Walmart Supercenter – trust me, all sorts of crazy things happen in big box stores and AlaskaGranny’s video on the people in Buffalo sheltering in a Target store brought back memories. I wrote a blog post in February 2014 about a situation that began in the late summer of 2013 and continued for several months. I also wrote another blog post of what my husband used to term, “The Walmart Chronicles,” when I would come home from work with another bizarre story. These stories usually started with me saying, “You’re not going to believe what happened today…” Here’s the link to that Feb 2014 blog post: Trey. Then in May 2014, I wrote another blog post about a Walmart story: Dilapidated in America.
What got me thinking about these personal stories was yesterday, I decided to make a trip to my local Dollar Tree, because Alaska Granny was so happy about her Dollar Tree personal care finds in her latest video and also I dropped a cheap plastic 2-cup measuring cup that I use all the time and it cracked, so I wanted to find another cheap plastic measuring cup. I have a bunch of Pyrex measuring cups and several sets of measuring cups (both plastic and metal) for dry ingredients too, but I liked that plastic two-cup liquid measuring cup. Dollar Tree didn’t have a 2-cup, so I opted for a 4-cup plastic liquid measuring cup. So, now to the point of this Dollar Tree trip story – the elderly lady living out of her car in the Walmart parking lot, that I wrote about in 2014, is still living out of her car, except her car looks like it’s completely broken down and near the parking lot of the shopping plaza where Dollar Tree is located. She had her car door open and had an umbrella propped over the open door for shade. It was in the upper 70s here yesterday. I had seen this lady walking, pushing a shopping cart, and she entered a local bank, as I was leaving about a year ago, so I knew she was still around.
The bottom line is a lot of people, including me, gave that lady money and food items, she had told me social services had tried to help her find an apartment (but nothing suits this lady) and I strongly suspect there’s some mental health problems. Back in 2014 she told me she has money and was fine when I gave her some cash. The things I remember about wanting to help this lady is other people were trying to help her too. I remember that she told me the local YMCA let her shower there and she told me a lot of people give her things. She even told me that she had lots of books to read, that she found at a yard sale in a nearby town. Granted, she was living dangerously in her car and still appears to be – it’s not safe for many reasons, but she doesn’t seem likely to change. One time I talked to her, she told me about a church group that had given her flowers for Mother’s Day, I think it was.
Back when the situation happened with the young man sleeping on the patio in lawn and garden at Walmart, I had thought about bringing him home and letting him stay here. My husband was already suffering from mobility problems and dementia, so I sought advice from a friend. He pointed out some things I hadn’t even thought about and while that young man was in a personal crisis situation, it wasn’t like he was trapped in a blizzard, which might have changed my decision. My friend pointed out that it was dangerous to take in a young man, I know nothing about. He warned me that young man could come with a group and rob my home and then there was my concern that my husband, could not defend himself, if something happened and I was at work. Someone with some hard-nosed realism helped me rein in my Pollyanna tendencies. And that’s what people will have to do in every crisis situation they encounter with strangers (or even people they do know) – carefully and cautiously assess the situation. Keeping my family and myself safe is my #1 priority.
In a recent situation where someone asked me for help, I gladly gave him some food, but I also gave him some blunt advice too. I told him I do not hand out money and after he explained his situation I told him some steps he should consider so he can get out of the situation he’s in (self-inflicted). He asked if he could come in my house and talk and I told him to wait on my front porch, while I got some food together for him. I could tell he had been drinking from the smell and I did not want to invite him in my home and then have to figure out how to get him to leave or have some other situation. I’ve known this young man since he was a kid, that’s why I helped him, but my youngest daughter in TX, looked up his criminal record, as I was telling her about him coming to my door in the middle of the night. She said, “Mama, this is public record,” and she started reading off the list. She told me don’t let him in your house and with the family situation he was telling me about, she told me she could understand if his family member didn’t want to help him.
Situations are often messy and while I have this rule of not handing out cash to people – I even broke that a few times in the past, but the bottom line was nothing I did to try to help that elderly woman or the young man made any real lasting change in their lives. I felt a sense of failing them, but I also know the truth is lasting change has to come from them doing the hard work to change their own situations. This is true for all of us.
In a severe weather emergency where people are facing imminent danger, most people would likely try to help other people, I think. However, in an economic crisis that will impact people differently, even in your own neighborhood, depending on individual financial choices, preparation or lack thereof for hard times, and resourcefulness, people will reach a personal crisis stage at different points and I suspect it might be people we know, who might come asking for help and not total strangers. Everyone will have to decide how they choose to handle that type of situation and it might vary depending on the circumstances. I can’t predict even how I’m going to fare through bad times, but I’m trying to take efforts to be better prepared and I wish more people would take emergency preparedness seriously.
With this issue of helping “unprepared” people in an emergency, the truth is I’m more concerned about the areas where I am not adequately prepared and with each big emergency weather situation and each personal crisis in my life, I focus on trying to improve my own preparedness. Yes, I do understand the concerns, however I don’t know what problems could come knocking at my door, but I do know there are many areas where I don’t have adequate skills and experience or supplies and information to handle major problems. I even screwed up caulking a window in my kitchen before this big winter storm. I bought the wrong product, thinking I could avoid using a caulking gun and some stuff in a can I used is really for sealing around pipes. I have a gloppy, lumpy mess around a window to scrape off now. My husband always handled home maintenance and repairs and I didn’t even have to think about it. While I have screwed up some of these little fix-it efforts, I’ve also had several that were wins and that encourages me to keep trying.
A storm just hit, so I’m going to end here. My area is under a severe weather warning and tornado watch today.