DEAR ABBY: I live in a major metropolitan area, so I am not unfamiliar with the sight of people who are down and out and living on the streets.
Recently, while walking to work, I came face-to-face with an old acquaintance. We had dated briefly more than 10 years ago, but parted amicably. Abby, he had a shopping cart containing his belongings and was going through a trash bin and yelling at passers-by! I didn't know what to do.
I pretended I didn't see him and continued on my way. I am barely scraping by, but probably could have offered him a few dollars. He knows where I live and work, and to be honest, I was frightened by his appearance. Now I feel guilty for not offering support. What would you have done?
— GUILT-RIDDEN IN THE CITY
DEAR GUILT-RIDDEN: If I had been caught flat-footed (literally) as you were, I probably would have reacted the same way you did. But after having a short while to think about it, I would have realized that homeless individuals who yell at passers-by are usually mentally ill people who have gone off their meds. What your old friend needs far more than a handout is to get into a program that will help him get off the streets and medicated back to reality.
If you know any members of his family, contact them and tell them you have seen him. Many street people have lost touch with their loved ones, and their families do not know how to find them. If that's not possible, check your phone book for shelters or other programs that reach out to and provide help for mentally ill homeless people. You are lucky you live in a large city where resources are available.
DEAR ABBY: One of my relatives' driver's license was suspended, and she has little hope of getting it back. This person drives on a regular basis, as much if not more often than I do, usually with her children.
My problem is she offers rides to my children. I refuse her offers because I'm not comfortable with her driving them under these circumstances.
This has created tension because she doesn't view her driving as a problem. I have not explained the circumstances to my children because I don't think they'd understand the legal issues.
Could you please tell me what would happen to my children if they were with her and she was pulled over?
— UNDER PRESSURE OUT EAST
DEAR UNDER PRESSURE: According to my local police department, if your children are in the car when your relative is stopped, the police will try to contact you by phone. If they're unable to locate you or the children's father, your children would then be taken to the police department. If you are still unreachable, child protective services would be called.
It is your responsibility as a mother to ensure your children's safety — and in this case that means you should NEVER allow them in a vehicle with a driver whose license has been suspended. As to their being too young to understand, if they don't understand the phrase "because you could be badly hurt," then "because I'm your mother and I SAID so!" will have to suffice.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.