This is a story that will by tomorrow, if not later today, that will gain national attention as it involves a restaurant, a woman doing a good thing and a homeless panhandler caught in the crossfire of the Social Justice Warriors and the rest of us.
This past Saturday, Florentina Albert, and her husband went to have a family breakfast at a local Pasadena, California family restaurant, Conrad's. It is been a fixture on the northeast corner of Lake and Walnut Avenue for decades. Neither Mrs. RVFTLC or I have ever been there. Every so often, we are thinking about going there, but do not.
Mrs. Albert saw a homeless man named Michael. The man asked Mrs. Albert if she could but him French Toast. She said sure. Her and her husband and Michael all went in. According to Mrs. Albert's account, she said that she would like to buy Michael a meal and to make sure that he would sit at the counter to eat his meal. A seemingly decent request.
It went downhill from there.
Mrs. Albert says that the owner gave Michael the food and asked him to take the food to go. And she was not happy with that and her husband saw Michael waiting to cross the street. She chased him down, told him to come back and confronted the owner. His response clearly was one of frustration:
"We don’t want him here. Why not? Michael sits outside and panhandles, bothering our customers asking for food.”
Does anyone doubt this?
Save that thought for later.
After a little more conversation, the owner relented and let Michael eat his meal. But not without the warning, "Today is the last time">
Mrs. Albert originally shared all of this on Facebook on a Pasadena page. But she also took photos. Of the receipts and a note she wrote of her displeasure.
I will assume that the first receipt is that for Michael's meal. It is not for French Toast, but hey, he changed his mind. And Mrs. Albert didn't care and wanted to willingly pay for it.
If anyone reads this blog with any regularity, I am not very sympathetic to the homeless because we as a society are allowing them to be out there and in most cases not getting the proper help that they need.
In this case, I actually side with both people.
I do get where the owner is coming from. I don't like going somewhere and before I get in the door, I am accosted by a homeless person. Most will ask for change, but there are many that ask for dollars. Not just a buck but dollars. Usually its a buck or five bucks. I always say no and that is no matter what. And I am usually not a happy camper to be accosted in the first place. Mrs. RVFTLC is more open to being sympathetic and has helped me at least try to have compassion about the homeless. But the problem has grown a lot here in Pasadena. I have lived here for 13 years and it is clear that there is a larger problem. Ask any member of the Pasadena police department. They will not speak on the record and it is like anything else there is some variance of opinion but they all will admit that the problem has grown, especially since the Gold Line light rail train from Los Angeles to here opened up. While most are not overly aggressive, many are. As I noted, they want more than the change you may have in your pocket. And many of these homeless are addicts, mentally ill or just plain not wanting to deal with life. The families that may get to a terrible condition of homelessness are much, much lower than we are led to believe by homeless advocates.
So, the unidentified owner of this family restaurant deals with Michael, or someone like Michael, almost every day. And there is no doubt that they scare a fair share of customers off.
But the unidentified owner could have dealt with the matter differently.
He did not need to be abrupt for after all, Mrs. Albert was taking responsibility for Michael by paying for his bill and I am sure watching for him to see how he would be in regards to the other customers. Now I do not know what Michael looked like. How he was dressed. Whether or not he was somewhat clean or dirty and smelly beyond belief. He should have taken the initiative to personally go to where Mrs. Albert was sitting with her husband and explained that although a nice gesture, Michael is a "regular" and does this all the time and that he will let Michael have his meal at the counter but it's probably not a good idea to do this again. If Mrs. Albert is a regular, I have no doubt she is, the owner should be more thoughtful.
As Mrs. Albert was actually doing something that many homeless advocates recommend. Offering to buy a meal, or in this case she was asked by Michael, instead of giving some loose change or dollars. It is a way to test if a homeless person is really hungry or just wanting money for other things. She had a moment of compassion for Michael and decided not just to pay for the meal but told him to come in with them and have the hot meal at the counter of the restaurant. She gave a down and out man a moment of dignity.
I don't question either person's motive.
The restaurant owner is doing two things. Looking out for his customers and, like it or not, trying to make a buck the way that he best knows how.
Mrs. Albert wanted to do something awesome for a man that needed a lift up. Even if it is for a few moments of time on a Saturday morning.
What is irritating about this is the Social Justice Warriors, who have no clue what it is like to run any business let alone a family restaurant, are leading the charge of condemnation against Conrad's. As I noted, this story will get bigger as the local ABC television station had this story on the 11pm news last night. It will be nationwide before you know it.
The SJW crowd loves to show how much they care for the cause they are fighting for, but how many really get both sides of such a story? I get Mrs. Albert being upset and not wanting to eat there again. But here is an opportunity for a businessman to show some good will and reach out to Mrs. Albert and at least try to make things right. Maybe they can do something good together.
I don't think that the owner is getting it, however.
In the aforementioned story on the 11pm news, an attorney spoke for the owner of the restaurant. Not dissing an attorney, but at this point the owner needs to show his face and explain his side of the story. It just is bad optics.
Here's something the SJW crowd does not get or care in reality.
Homelessness is one of those problems where there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are varying degrees of how to deal with the different kinds of homeless. Mentally ill. Addicts. A combination of both. Transients. And the few but very sad cases of families caught in this economy.
Neither they or businesses can look at the issue and offer anything beyond the bromides. It does not help when people who have probably never set foot into Conrad's use social media to diss the restaurant and give it poor ratings on outlets like Yelp. The owner feels cornered and that he is convinced he did nothing wrong.
An act of kindness and an overreaction by a frustrated businessman should not be so blown out of proportion but some cooler heads should prevail and maybe, just one time something good can come out of such a situation.