David Blistein

‘Why don’t they just get a job?’

Some general answers to some common questions about giving money to people on the streets of Brattleboro

David Blistein, a scriptwriter for documentary films and an author, publishes a Substack newsletter, Fields of Vision, where he is writing "Street Cred," a series of essays that profile the lives and circumstances of his unhoused neighbors in downtown Brattleboro. (Note that he's changed the names he uses here.) Some of these stories were featured in the Voices section on Sept. 20. "This is a big topic, and I welcome comments, corrections, and criticism," he says.

I was happy to hear the issue of so-called "panhandling" discussed at a recent Selectboard hearing, where board member Daniel Quipp made a key point: You don't have to choose between giving money to someone holding a cardboard sign and donating to a nonprofit organization. You can give a little or a lot to either or both.

Nonprofit organizations do their best to provide long-term solutions to chronic issues of lack of shelter, hunger, transportation, clothing, medical care, etc., whereas when you give cash (or a gift card) to someone on the street, you're helping address a more immediate need.

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Street cred

These people live in downtown Brattleboro — on the street during the day and wherever they can at night. It’s complicated. Very complicated.

It's very difficult to talk about homeless people without seeming overly idealistic or fatalistic. Or, worse, to seem just clueless. Even the right phrase: homeless, houseless, homeless-by-choice, housing challenged, couch surfing, tent city-ing. To bastardize Leo Tolstoy, "every homeless person is homeless in his, her, and/or their own way."

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A direct connection between brain and fingertips

On typewriters, keyboards, and the technological evolution of the tools we use to put our thoughts into words

At some point when I wasn't looking, the clunky, consonant-riddled word haptic - which has nothing to do with being “happy” - started appearing in system settings for phones and computers. I will share the definition, but clearly, it's a word that only a linguistically passive-aggressive techno-geek could love...

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How can public have a constructive dialogue with police unless we know whom we’re talking to?

It was humbling to sit on the Town Common on June 17 and listen to stories of pain and frustration presented by people whose lives have been impacted in negative ways over the years by the Brattleboro Police Department. But it was equally humbling to realize how little I (and perhaps others) know about the people who now work in that department. I've met Chief Mike Fitzgerald once or twice. But I didn't know until recently that he grew up...

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More thoughts on marijuana (so to speak)

I have absolutely no doubt that certain strains of marijuana in certain dosages can successfully treat depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mood disorders in certain people. As a guy who prides himself on having an open mind, I have no doubt. Nada. Zilch. I measure success by the same standard that we expect from prescription antidepressants: that certain formulations in certain dosages help certain people. Ditto for over-the-counter remedies such as SAM-e, St. John's Wort, 5-HTP, B-vitamins, and amino acids.

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‘The disease is personal. The treatment is that elusive’

If you have a heart attack, you have a heart attack. If you have cancer, you have cancer. If you have diabetes, you have diabetes. These diseases, horrific as they may be, have names. In general, medical professionals know what is going on inside you - and which medicines or procedures might help. Or at least how they work…or why they might not. What we call “depression” has many names. And - despite all the talk of serotonin, norepinephrine, and...

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