Giving Money to the Homeless – Should You Do It?

It’s easy to feel guilty about driving past the sadness of the situation without parting with a dollar or two… yet you don’t like the idea of giving money to someone who very well may be panhandling for another quart of beer and pack of cigarettes.

What should you do? What can you do?

Here are a few ideas.

Giving Money to the Homeless – Should You Do It?

Booze, drugs, and mental issues can take anyone down. Former UNC lineman, Ryan Hoffman, died last year, having spent months living on the street and begging for a living.

Embarrassment kept soccer star Christina Burkenroad from telling her classmates that she was sleeping in a parking lot. And actor John Drew Barrymore dropped out of Hollywood’s inner circles to make the rounds of city jails and hospitals for alcohol and drug overdoses.

That homeless couple you’re staring at from inside your air-conditioned car have a past that may have been as comfortable as your present situation. Their story may not be about addiction. There are plenty of ways to go broke and end up homeless. It could happen to any of us some day.

1. Let your gut be your guide when giving to the poor

I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, wanting to get going to an appointment. The lady in front of me was trying to buy a bottle of cheap wine with food stamps, and the clerk wasn’t going for it. I started to pay for it myself, just to get the line moving, but something told me not to – a “check in my spirit,” you might say.

After my meeting, I drove back by the store. There were police barricades and plenty of activity at the park across the street. The clerk told me the woman had stood outside the store panhandling to get enough money for her bottle. She took it to the park and another homeless person stabbed her to get it for himself. She died.

Other times, I’ve felt that I should help someone out, and it’s worked out well. Some people legitimately need money for food. Others are feeding an addiction. Many simply find it easier to beg than to work. Let your gut be your guide.

2. Know where help is and be ready to point the way

Travelers, especially, may not know where a local shelter or soup kitchen is. Learn about your community and let the needy know. I saw a young woman with a sign saying “Homeless and Pregnant.” I put her in touch with a local Church that ministers to girls in trouble. Another guy needed medicine, and he was a veteran. I took him to the local VA satellite clinic.

Chances are high that there’s more help available in your locale than you know about. Don’t assume everyone on the street knows about the options. Many don’t. You may not have the money to spare to help them find shelter and food. It could be that those things are close at hand, if they only knew where.

homeless woman

3. Give to local agencies

Be careful with this one. There are plenty of scams out there. Some have great names, but mask what they really do. Kars4Kids, for instance, a nonprofit that brings in millions of dollars every year with advertising featuring young people ran into legal problems when watchdogs discovered their funds go to help a Jewish organization and that their promised “free vacations” were actually timeshare offers.

Your best bet may be to find local charities to invest in. You can donate more than your money like that. Volunteer to help cook or serve. If you’re a business person, go help those who want to get back on their feed find work or launch a dream. Opportunities to help those who need a hand up are vast.

Giving Money to the Homeless – Should You Do It?

You know the answer. Of course you should help. We all should help. It’s not the government’s job to take care of the poor, it’s our job to help one another.

How should you do it, though? That’s the big question. By listening to your gut, finding out where local help exists, and helping those local agencies thrive, you can make a real difference in the lives of others.

Do it.

This article is written by Abel Cane and was published here with permission.

Abel Cane knows about the plight of the homeless. He sees it on the streets of Portland, Oregon, every day. Abel tells folks to not let pride get in the way of helping someone who needs a hand up.

Image Credit:

  1. featured image: Creative Commons image source
  2. 2nd image: Creative Commons image source