Someone approaches you for help, they say that they’re homeless and in need of money for food and for shelter. They promise they don’t do drugs or alcohol and will the use the money for just food and shelter, if you could only spare a dime. What do you do? Do you A) Give them money for food and shelter,
B) Give them no money, but provide food,
Or C) Give them nothing at all and walk away?
How do you know if they’re telling you the truth or just trying to scam you out of 20 dollars? Is there a sure-fire way to know if this is a person in need of help or not? How do you make the decision to donate or not to donate? In my area of town a lot of people act as though they’re homeless and broke, when in reality they aren’t. They beg for money, and use stories like, “I’m pregnant and homeless, please help my baby.”, or “I’m injured and homeless and can’t afford medical care, please donate to my cause” or my personal favorite, “I just want weed and liquor, I need money tho”. It’s becoming harder and harder to be able to discern between the truly homeless and those who just want to make a buck off of a bleeding heart. In the winter months, when it’s bitterly cold, it can be hard to tell them no at times, it’s cold, they’re shivering, you just want to see them get warm. Last semester at LCC there was an older gentleman who’d come to me once a week and ask for silver change so he could get coffee. His clothes were very old and very worn, he was missing teeth and his eyes said he’d experienced much in his life. I started saving all my quarters and dimes and nickels and would sit in the same spot, knowing he’d come to me for some silver change so he could get a coffee. I carried dollar coins on me for a while, and he’d get so excited when I would hand him a couple, saying he hadn’t seen those since he was a kid. I looked for him this semester, but I haven’t seen him, he doesn’t attend LCC and he wasn’t technically supposed to be asking students for change, but it was warmer in the building than it was outside, and the coffee would keep him warm while he walked around the city streets. Last week I was approached by a man who said he was homeless, it was almost 9 in the evening and freezing cold outside, he told me he needed shelter and food and funds to get those things. He promised he wouldn’t spend the money on alcohol or drugs, but he’d appreciate any help he could get. I didn’t have anything on me at the time, so he thanked me for even listening to what he had to say, and went on his way. Was he truly homeless? I couldn’t say. His clothes said he hadn’t changed in quite a while, he didn’t have any gloves and the shoes he had on certainly weren’t meant for winter weather. His hat was thin and raggedy and his coat wouldn’t keep out a summer breeze. He was missing teeth and his eyes held a look of desperation while he shivered in the cold. I saw him go to ask other people, and those people turned their backs on him or just walked away from him. He didn’t harass an cars as they drove, just people who were walking around campus or on the city streets. And as the harsh, winter winds picked up and a chill ran through my body, I felt a pang of sorrow for him. For even if he wasn’t homeless, what a sad life you must live to be out this late at night, begging people for money. I hoped and prayed he would get the help he needed and find somewhere warm to go, because it was far too cold to be outside. But here’s the thing, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had money on me at the time. When giving to the homeless you are running the risk of them not being homeless, and there goes money you could have used for your own personal needs or desires. If I had food, I would have given him the food, I used to bring extra food with me because there was a mentally disabled man who was homeless, always asking for food. He never was around though, on days when I had to go to school, so I stopped bringing extra food with me. It’s a judgement call that only you can make, some people I know will only give to certain homeless people. They’ll only give to women and children, but not to men, or they’ll only give to the elderly or those with disabilities. Others will give to all homeless, but only a certain dollar amount, enough to get food and nothing else, and then there are those who only give food, no money, just food and maybe a drink.
So what was your answer? Did you choose A, B or C? If I have the means then I’ll give them some food instead. I won’t run the risk of them truly being homeless and not receiving help, if they aren’t homeless and they received free food, then I guess they get free food, but I will always try to lend a helping hand if I can.