Paging O. Henry

When you say O. Henry, most people think of the “The Gift of the Magi,” but my favorite short story by O. Henry, AKA William Sydney Porter, was always “The Cop and the Anthem.”

In that story, Soapy, a hapless hobo tramping around New York City, is desperate to be arrested so he can spend winter’s coldest days in jail. But Soapy isn’t even very good at breaking the law — and you can read the rest here.

A modern day Soapy had no such trouble in Troy this week; police arrested one Jamaine Makepeace who they say broke windows at the Rensselaer County Clerk’s office in a bid to be collared by the cops. Why? To go somewhere warm. According to a police spokesman:

“He told us he figured he would do enough damage to get a year in jail. He told us that he was tired of being on the streets and begging food from people.”

Mr. Makepeace got his wish and is currently being held in Rensselaer County Jail without bail.

Homelessness is complicated and nothing I say about it will be anything less than trite — but those who scoff at the idea of helping the most troubled among us should take note, even as you mock what President Obama had to say on Monday.

It’s a sad story, but at least this guy, like Soapy, will be safe and warm for a little while.

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