Handicapped permits shouldn't be abusedThis letter is to...

LETTERS

February 09, 1997

Handicapped permits shouldn't be abused

This letter is to voice my opinion about the inappropriate use of handicap tags. A handicap permit is for use when the handicapped person is in the vehicle.

I am a caregiver for my 80 year-old mother, who is in a wheelchair. We have a conversion van for the purpose of transporting her. The worst thing is not that I have to push her in the wheelchair from way out on the parking lot, but when I have had to park in a normal-sized parking space and cannot get her step next to the van to get her into the wheelchair. It is very frustrating.

Recently, I was at Marley Station near the new Sears, where there are four or five handicapped parking spots near the one door. All were taken. Three had people in their cars waiting for someone to come out of the mall. The one closest to the door was a woman and her child who pulled in after I had struggled to get my mother out of the van in a regular parking space.

By that time I was hot. I mentioned it to the woman, who screamed, "How do you know what my medical problems are? I'll give you my doctor's name and number and you can call him." This type of altercation would not have to be experienced if people knew the police checked permits.

Don't people realize they are taking up a spot that may be necessary for a legitimate handicapped person? This is not only inconsiderate and rude but illegal as far as I am concerned.

I feel very strongly that law enforcement officers should check the permits of the vehicles parked in handicapped spaces and should ticket those who do not have the handicapped person with them. The fine should be enough to make them think about parking there again. At Marley Station, a parking space is reserved for police cars near most handicapped parking spots, making the inspection easy to perform.

I am pleading with those people with handicapped tags to remember how it feels when they cannot find a spot for their handicapped person.

`Jacqueline Acree Horst

Pasadena

Student learns homeless are just like you and me

One of the most significant events in my life is working with the Winter Relief Program at my church. This program is a community outreach to men in northern Anne Arundel who have no home.

This opportunity comes once a year and lasts two weeks, in which we actually reach out to support, work with and rehabilitate the homeless. The program is shared with 11 other churches that take in 30 or more homeless men providing a place to stay, food to eat, videos, books, clothes and friends to talk to.

This experience has changed my attitude on the whole aspect of homelessness. Before, I associated homelessness with laziness and a lack of motivation.

However, I see now from first-hand experience that these men have really just caught the raw end of the deal or have made some really bad choices.

Several of the men are hard workers with families and have just fallen on bad times with no family support to carry them on. There are a few lazy and useless men, but the majority are just like everyone else except for one major possession -- a place to call home.

I think the best and most important feature of the program is that it gives the homeless a sense of being wanted and that someone actually cares. They frequently face being shunned or turned away. In this environment, they are accepted and treated as an equal. We provide someone for them to talk to and be their friend.

I think this is the most important element, even over the food and shelter. They are so accustomed to being outcasts that when faced with a friendly atmosphere, they are totally overwhelmed and take full advantage of the fellowship. Throughout my years and all of my service, I have heard some extremely unique stories as well as stories of the ordinary man.

This program is locally run, Many of the people in it still come into contact with me and we remain friends. Through playing cards, basketball and talking to these men I have been introduced to many types of people, such as alcoholics, drug addicts, young, old, even men who were formerly heads of major corporations.

These men are the same as you and me. It has given me exposure to many cultures and behaviors, but most of all friendship and fellowship with people I never expected to be involved with and men who perhaps need it most.

I think more people should get involved with programs like this to help the homeless problem our country is experiencing. It would help people understand that the homeless are no different than the person next to you.

Many of these men have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. They have not been able to regain employment and have simply given up.

It is truly ironic how one minute they can be important to society and the next they are worthless. If everyone could realize this and not have the usual fear and stereotype, they could experience the change I have and benefit from it as well.

!Zachary Andrew Geidel

Pasadena

The writer is a senior at Mount St. Joseph High School, Baltimore.

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