Jeremy Beer is the author of The Philanthropic Revolution: An Alternative History of American Charity and president of the American Ideas Institute.
Pete is not his real name, but let’s call him that; the homeless, no less than the rest of us, deserve their privacy. He can be found in our neighborhood most every day. Often, he is sweeping the steps or driveways of local businesses. Rarely does he say a word unless you ask him a direct question. He is a veteran of the Iraq war.
A local diner feeds him, and some of the patrons chip in to cover the costs. There is a running “Pete tab” at the register, to which you can add whatever you like. Folks have tried to do more for Pete, including finding his family. But for whatever reason Pete hasn’t wanted their help, and he steers clear of all official social service agencies.