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“Open Your Mouth …

by Lisa Ellison

… judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9)

Last month we posted a short article about a documentary called, ““Misunderstood: The Voice Behind the Cardboard,”created by four students in the Master of Social Work program at East Carolina University. With a goal of raising awareness of panhandlers in Greenville, the students interviewed community members to learn how the public perceives panhandlers. They spent time with the panhandlers themselves. To footage from these interviews, Ali Kiser, Ashley Tucker, Miriam Hill and Glee Dunbar added information about issues often surrounding panhandling such as homelessness, substance abuse, disabilities and the loss of dignity.

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Today I saw a social media post encouraging people to shame a local panhandler, calling him out as a liar, a drug user, a criminal who just needs to “get a job.” The messages I saw were hateful, uncharitable and judgmental. The high number of “shares” was disconcerting.

“The main thing I want people to understand,” said Dunbar when I reached out to the film-makers about the post, “is that when resources are lacking, individuals have an extremely difficult time getting to a stable state. When they are in pain and things look hopeless, individuals can sometimes turn to substances as a means of coping.”

Dunbar also told me the documentary, just over 30-minutes long, is now online. Please take the time to watch it and share it with others.

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