Atheists Helping the Homeless (#16) September 18, 2010

Atheists Helping the Homeless (#16)

Joe Zamecki and fellow atheists in Austin, Texas have been helping the homeless frequently over the past couple years and tomorrow is their 16th such giveaway. It’ll take place at 8:00 a.m. and all the details can be found here.

Joe gave me a few more details in an email:

We’ll have multiple birthday cakes to share, in addition to the regular items we give out. Plus we’ll be giving out a few new types of items, like stuffed animals for the kids. Yes, we still get entire families coming to our tables for help. We still need donations and other forms of help, so please check out our website:

We greatly appreciate all the donations, volunteer work, word of mouth, and online publicity we’ve been given over the last year, and we are determined to continue helping folks in need with this group. All without preaching and with no cost overhead.

Whenever you hear a theist say that people without religion lack basic moral values, please point to Atheists Helping the Homeless. We’re people helping people — no gods needed.

It’s a wonderful program and I’m thrilled that the atheists in the area are able to get together and help people who really need it, regardless of their religious backgrounds.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Can’t atheists give their money to people who actually deserve it?

  • Note to OneSTDV – Compassion is hard; that’s why it’s praiseworthy. The people that you feel deserve help – people with the same level of intelligence, ambition, mental stability and the same quality of moral training – do not need help. Zamecki is doing a great work.

  • OneSTDV, don’t you think homeless people deserve help?

  • Hitch

    Good cause and looks like a really well run initiative.

  • @ Cafeeine:

    Political and Societal Issues:

    A) Destruction of the family has largely undermined the traditional aid route for the homeless.

    B) The population of institutionalized individuals has decreased dramatically in the past 30 or so years. Prior to this, these individuals would be in facilities.

    Personal Responsibility:

    No one likes to say it, but most homeless people aren’t mentally ill, but rather individuals with little personal responsibility and self-restraint. They spend their money on drugs, alcohol, and refuse to find work.

    For the final reason, I’d prefer not to give money to homeless people. I’d rather give it to highly qualified, but poor kids looking for a college scholarship or people stricken with disease not caused by personal activity (AIDS vs. some forms of cancer).

  • Yeonghoon Joung

    Can’t atheists give their money to people who actually deserve it?

    I’m profoundly confused by this statement and its implications.

  • I got a question – please feel free to direct me to the right place to ask if this isn’t – will this organization welcome volunteers who say they are religious, but want to help for the sake of helping?

  • I would tend to echo the idea that in my experience, homeless people are people with problems, either due to mental issues or drug problems, but I would hardly call my experience authoritative. There is a much greater familial bond of these things in Greece, where I’ve had the most interactions, that people with financial problems only are rarely left out in the street.

    I am perplexed by your reasons for not considering the homeless as deserving of assistance: On the one hand you’re noting that traditional family and institutionalization routes have been minimized, and on the other you’re talking about the personal responsibility of people who where erstwhile enclosed in facilities. I fail to see how providing basic amenities to people, even if some of them are lazy drug-using alcoholics. Note that the AHH are not giving away money, but basic goods, like granola bars, toilet paper, shampoo, shaving kits and water. I can’t see that your reasons are adequate to say that these people don’t deserve this kind of help.

  • AM

    I cannot speak for the group, but I think it would send out the wrong message to turn away any volunteer regardless of religious beliefs if they were willing to help because it’s the right thing to do. There should be no reason why we help our fellow human beings, it should be simply because we can.

  • SecularLez

    I’m not even going to touch this ” Can’t atheists give their money to people who actually deserve it?” considering the person who asked this question has the term “STD” in their user name. That kind of says enough right there.

  • No one likes to say it, but most homeless people aren’t mentally ill, but rather individuals with little personal responsibility and self-restraint. They spend their money on drugs, alcohol, and refuse to find work.

    For the final reason, I’d prefer not to give money to homeless people. I’d rather give it to highly qualified, but poor kids looking for a college scholarship or people stricken with disease not caused by personal activity (AIDS vs. some forms of cancer)

    I’m actually so angry right now that I’m not entirely sure what to say.

    I feel like going with: spend ten goddamned minutes actually learning about the plight of the poor in this country, please. About how generations of people within families are trapped in cycles of poverty, and how even if some homeless person’s family wanted to help, they might not be able to. Or about how poor people literally aren’t able to escape environments that have high drug use because the poor are rampantly ghettoized in this country and how homeless people literally have no avenue to better themselves because people like you see them as degenerates and refuse to take three seconds out of your day not just to deign to give them the loose dollar you probably would have lost in your nice, comfy couch back home, but to give money to organizations trying to correct systemic discrimination or to at least try to correct one or two of the awful assumptions you make about homeless people, like how they all “refuse” to find work when more likely the case is that white manager will. not. hire. the impoverished, jobless black guy or how homeless people apparently spend their money on drugs when a lot of them don’t have enough money to spend on food or how rich people spend way more money on drugs than poor people (obvious statement is obvious), they just happen to not get dragged off to jail (also a really great way to make sure the homeless guy can’t get a job: put him away on some silly drug charge and then if and when he gets out there’s no way in hell he’s getting work ever again) because it’s just so much easier for the police to victimize poor people. Or, just spend ten minutes talking to a homeless person as an actual person and not just some piece of social detritus, and they’ll sort you out pretty fast.

    I was thinking about going back and editing the above, to maybe be more convincing. But then I realized I don’t care much about trying to plead ever so much with you to actually recognize homeless people as goddamned people, the exact same as you, for once. It’s (stronger word for “crap”) like this that makes the christians think we’re evil. We’re better than this. Or at least I hope so.

  • @ SecularLez:

    Can you read? Seriously, can you read entire words or just a few letters? Maybe you’re not familiar with the letter ‘V’ or haven’t gotten that far in learning the alphabet. Here’s a clip from Sesame Street to help:

    [It’s a mathematical term, One Standard Deviation, FWIW.]

    even if some of them are lazy drug-using alcoholics

    These people can help themselves, thus they’re not worthy of my charity – which comes from sacrificing my own time, hard work, and money.

    If they’re legitimately mentally ill, then it’s OK. I should have made this clear in my last comment.

  • what i find ironic is someone treating the homeless who aren’t mentally ill as “undeserving” because they can “help themselves” on an atheist board. how very protestant (work ethic) of you, STDV.

    alcoholism and drug addiction are medical health issues, btw. people generally don’t “choose” to be addicted. it’s a combination of things, including a genetic predisposition to be vulnerable to addiction to those substances. and it’s an old, vile religious tradition in this country, to believe that all those people need to do is find a little ‘willpower’ and they could fix all their problems.

    judgement: another thing i try to avoid as an atheist. and i give to charity regularly, i just don’t have any need to talk about it. happy to see this group being active and i hope they get a lot of support in this effort.

  • OneSTDV said:

    No one likes to say it, but most homeless people aren’t mentally ill, but rather individuals with little personal responsibility and self-restraint. They spend their money on drugs, alcohol, and refuse to find work.

    [rather large citation needed]

    I’m finding it harder and harder not to just disregard you as a troll.

  • Swulf


    Thank goodness there aren’t more assholes like you in government. Try being homeless for a while and see how your attitude would change. If you had friends who were homeless, or you were homeless yourself, you would not spout such garbage.

  • In answer to the question, would AHH allow religious people to help us help the homeless, yes, and we already have.

    Some of the homeless we help want to help us do our giveaways, which we love and consider helpful, and many of them wear their religion on their sleeve.

    We have discussed this question deeply, and the word is, we don’t discriminate. Anyone can help, and anyone can be helped by AHH. One need not even be homeless! But that’s the majority of the people we’re helping, and we don’t even ask if they’re homeless.

    In my experience with this group, and from having been homeless myself many years ago, ‘homelessness’ is a grey area. If you take time to find out why someone is homeless, you’ll probably hear what I’ve heard: A dozen things go wrong, mostly not by their control. For every failure of housing each night they spend outside, there are lots of complex reasons.

    But one of the most common scenarios we hear is ‘I screwed up. I blew it. Now my family won’t help me, I’m far from home anyway, and someone stole my wallet, etc.’

    Yes mental health problems make up a lot of these folks’ problems in the first place, but the complexity of functioning in a dog eat dog society can make some folks just give up. Because they feel that no one cares.

    AHH is addressing that, but only at that giveaway location. They have to come to us, so to speak. So they’re making a little effort too.

    I posted videos of our first few giveaways. They’re educational as well as fun to watch.

    In the playlist ‘Atheists Helping the Homeless.’

    Joe Zamecki

  • muggle

    Great work! Keep it up. I wish I had the means and the balls to start it up locally. Be great to see this catch on in more cities.

    OneSTDV, there’s nothing to say to that really except that you don’t have any clue as to just how lucky you have been.

  • TXatheist

    OneSDTV said

    but most homeless people aren’t mentally ill

    I gotta disagree as far as them being emotionally and intellectually stable after talking to dozens of them at our giveaways.
    I agree with Joe Zamecki in that once these people feel everything has slipped away they fall into this system. They have an extremely hard time getting back into the system of having a job and living somewhere because that takes a certain level of stability and that is the hard part.

  • @AM – the answer I was looking for, mate. I’d whole-heartedly agree with doing it that way. Will now check with the organization to see if that’s part of their philosophy.

  • SecularLez

    Actually there are plenty of a-holes like STDV in our government. They are called Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats.

  • Vene

    TXatheist, blame that on Reagan. He’s the dipshit who would it would be a good idea to take people out of institutions and dump them on the streets.

  • Rosita


    It seems to me that it is you who are the Standard Deviation here. In my experience, this kind of ignorant bigotry is the opposite of the humanitarian attitudes of the average atheist. It is the type of response I have come to expect from graduates of the U.S. mis-education system, especially those impaired by the religiously based throttling of critical thinking which is typical of schools in the Bible Belt.

  • darkbeauty

    The homeless guy me and my husband fed did have mental problems he couldnt even speak right. poor dude. but he understood wait here we will be back with food so that was good . My husband is buddhist and I am agnostic we are both exchristians. I’m tired of christians trying to say they r the only ones who help people. Im buying my husband’s ex gf (my bff’s sister) baby supplies cause she dosent have anything so I dont want to hear that christians are the only giving people anymore cause that is total bs

  • Wow. I am currently homeless…I am on this site often as I am an Atheist. We moved out of a violent neighborhood for my kids safety and are currently in a crappy hotel. My husband works almost 50 hours a week but our money goes to our hotel room and food. We can’t cook so our food bills are higher. There are no shelters nearby and no charities close enough to help. We could survive like this but there is no way out without a loan to get first months rent and deposit for an apartment. We have never touched drugs, we rarely drink alcohol, have no mental illness (one of our daughter’s is bipolar). We are trying our best. We have been homeless for 5 weeks now…we have had nowhere to send our mail to. Most of the homeless people I have run into do have some issues such as a criminal history, mental illness, or a drug problem. I just wanted to say that not all of us are undeserving of help.

    I also used to volunteer at a homeless shelter and I am in the process of donating my kidney to a stranger. I help as often as I can and now that I need help I can’t seem to find anybody to help us. 

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