What should our reaction be to a beggar who walked up to a Delta passenger in Atlanta checking-in for his flight and punched him the face? How should we answer calls to step up police vigilance and reduce vagrancy in U.S. airports?
I approach this issue with caution. I think we all should. It is quite easy to look at the fact pattern below and demonize the homeless man. That’s not to say that he avoid severe legal consequences for his actions. He should not. Nor can we necessarily make blanket generalizations on the basis of one incident.
But have you noticed an uptick in the homeless population at U.S airports? Interestingly, before even reading about this incident in Atlanta, I counted more homeless people or beggars than normal milling about both LAX and JFK this week. My casual observation does not necessarily mean anything, but the issue has been on my mind…especially as the homeless crisis continues to worsen in many U.S. cities.
The unidentified passenger was flying Delta from Atlanta (ATL) and had just entered the check-in hall on the departures level. The man, who apparently is a regular beggar at ATL with a rap sheet a mile long, walked up him and decked him, splitting his lip.
Security camera footage revealed no provocation or interaction of any kind from the victim…all signs point to a random attack.
Passenger assaults at Atlanta number 236 this year. That’s actually down this year from 2018, but still an alarming number. These sorts of incidents occur at airports across the country.
Rather than just covering this incident, I’m attempting a larger conversation on homelessness because airports present a venue in which we encounter it. The traveler cannot avoid it.
Why The Homeless Flock To Airports
If I put myself in the shoes of a homeless person, the first place I’d go is to an airport. Most large airports are open 24/7 and serve as a warm refuge on a cold night. Travelers may be more generous than other prospective benefactors and eateries and clean restrooms present opportunities for basic comfort.
Any world traveler has encountered poverty. I’ve seen horrible poverty all over the world, including in the Untied States and Western Europe.
The question is what do we do with it? Simply ignore it? Try to save the world ourselves?
Homelessness is a blight on our society and something all sides can join together in trying to eradicate.
But that’s a platitude; an unfunded mandate.
What can we really do?
I don’t know. But I am going to resist the temptation to respond to this horrific incident in Atlanta by simply ignoring the problem. Certainly, we should vote for politicians who take the issue seriously. But we can also, in our own way, meet the needs of others who cross our paths. That does not necessarily involve opening your wallet. Sometimes it is just eye contact or a smile. But these homeless people are humans too. And many are in desperate need of help. Since I forget this sometimes, I figure others may as well.
This rather serious issue is in stark contrast to the frivolity of premium cabin travel and luxury hotels that is the typical focus of this blog. We’ll return to regularly scheduled programming shortly. But this issue is on my mind this morning. And I’m bothered not only by this horrific attack, but by a problem that seems to be getting worse, not getting better.
Surely, a nation that is so rich and unbelievably blessed can work toward a meaningful way to address the homeless issue, in airports and outside of them…
Today I’ll be flying. And even if I am setting up myself for a punch in the face, I’m not just going to ignore a person in need who crosses my path. Because if the shoes were reserved, I’d sure hope someone would show me a little love too…
image: ATL Airport