Social Question

ubersiren's avatar

Why do you, or why do you not give money to street beggars?

Asked by ubersiren (15046 points ) September 1st, 2009

A lot of people have a strict “yes” or “no” policy on giving money to beggars. I never know what to do, because I’m torn morally. I’m a very charitable person and donate almost every time I go to the grocery store, and to the Salvation Army, food and clothing drives and that sort of thing. Then again, I don’t want my money to be spent making a drug or drinking problem worse. Sometimes I give money to beggars, but most of the time I don’t.

Once, I told a woman that I wouldn’t give her money, but would get her a meal at McDonalds, and she agreed to it, and that’s what I did.

I completely judge on a case by case basis, but I don’t know by what criterion. I don’t make any sense.

How do you chose what to do?

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45 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I’ve bought food for people. I’ll give my own food to people. I’ll not give money to people on the street. If the homeless person has an addiction, giving them money only enables that addiction which would be doing them more harm than good.

If you want to help the homeless, donate your money and/or time to homeless charities.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

I don’t wanna
It makes me feel guilty for a few seconds, but then I’d realize, it’s not MY fault that they’re homeless. Unless I’m an arsonist.

sakura's avatar

Can’t say I give it to someone who’s just begging, but if they are busking and I reckon they are ok I chuck a few coins in!

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I don’t.

it’s just not something I feel the need or desire to do, I bust my ass for every penny I earn, and I don’t make a lot of money doing it in the first place, maybe I’m just unsympathetic.

janbb's avatar

I’m in the same morally nebulous position as you, ubersiren. Sometimes yes, sometimes no – don’t know why.

nayeight's avatar

I don’t encounter that many beggars so no, I don’t give them anything. Also, I’ve heard there are a few people in my town that aren’t really homeless and have jobs, they just pretend because its easy money.

Facade's avatar

If I have money to spare, I’ll give it to them. If I don’t, I won’t.

nikipedia's avatar

I never do because of what you mentioned—contributing money to someone’s substance abuse problem is only going to keep him/her on the streets longer. Donating to a homeless shelter or similar is a much better way of actually helping people. Giving food also seems like a good compromise.

Also, I have met some very aggressive panhandlers. I’ve never had a problem myself but have heard lots of stories of people (especially women) being followed, threatened, etc. So I try not to engage them.

jfos's avatar

Sometimes. It’s definitely a case-by-case assessment.

critter1982's avatar

Generally speaking, I don’t trust that they won’t buy drugs or alcohol with the money that I give to them. I will however take them to a local store and buy them something to drink or eat.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

It’s bears mentioning that most of the homeless people I’ve offered food too, declined and asked for money. Donating to charitable homeless services ensures that your donations go to people who are looking for help, not handouts.

cwilbur's avatar

I don’t give money to beggars. I donate to homeless shelters instead.

I do, however, give generously to buskers. About a week ago a woman was playing the Bach partitas for solo violin in the subway, quite well, and I gave her $20.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I give to charities that help the homeless in my city. There are simply too many people to give money to every homeless person who asks. It still stings sometimes, though, if I tell a homeless person I have nothing to give them and they curse me under their breath or aloud.

There are at least 10 beggars I have seen on the 1 line and the A line of the subway doing the same schtick for the last 15 years. Tourists just give them loads of money. That makes me angry, because there are truly desperate people in this city who could use that money.

Judi's avatar

This question has come up before and I’ll give the same answer since there’s a new crowd.
“It’s the condition of my heart that matters, Not theirs.”

seVen's avatar

I believe we are our brothers keepers, but need to be wise about it too when helping out.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I prefer to make donations to the homeless shelter or my church (which is one of the biggest contributors in our community). That way I know the money is going towards good things. I’m always scared if I give a street beggar money they’ll buy alcohol, cigarettes etc. I’ve given them plates of food, but not cash.

BluRhino's avatar

This brings to mind a story I recall from something I read written by a buddhist monk. (I dont have the source at my fingertips)

He related the story of a lawyer in a big city, who would walk from his downtown office to a local eatery for lunch every day. Every day he would encounter a homeless man on the sidewalk who would just simply hold out his hand. This happened twice a day, every day. The lawyer would see him, and always struggle to decide what to do.

The monk explained that the homeless man, his birth, childhood, successes, losses, the years, his whole life, everything that conspired to put him there on that sidewalk, at that time, his role in the grand scheme of things, was for the SOLE purpose of… evoking compassion in THAT lawyer.

ubersiren's avatar

@BluRhino : Great story! I don’t know if I buy it, but it’s a nice thought. :o)

Allibaby808's avatar

I have to agree with most of the people ^ above. I usually do not give them money. I have given them food that I have on me I know I’m not going to eat. I’ve even spoken to some of them. My bf will give them money only if they tell him an interesting life story about where they have been or how they got where they are today. I sometimes consider it if they look like they are reallllly sick and malnourished, but for the most part living in a bigger city, I see the same ones on the same corners, trying the same lines, and it is almost repulsive. One time I was walking and read this guys sign that read: “My buddy left with my girl, need money to get back home.” as I passed him though he looked at me and said “I just need money to get to a festival down in Virginia. hahaha sorry noooo!

PerryDolia's avatar

If they are just sitting along the sidewalk, I look at the person’s face, then at his shoes. If they really look like they need help, I do what I can. Most of the time, they look like they have made a career of begging are are not all that needy.

If someone comes up to me on the street and asks me for money, I reach in my pocket and give them all my change, and move on. I figure if they are actively asking for the money, a bit of change means more to them than it does to me; I help them out.

euphoria's avatar

Reasons why i dont are:

Most in the city where i live are heroin addicts or alcoholics, not all homeless people are genuine, a relative once saw a guy begging, once he had enough he went to a large and well known bookstore and purchased some books, he was a student basically, and some beggers ask for a specific amount.

And incase it sounds like i dont know what its like, i actually spent a night homeless before, i know its scary, worrying, cold and a horrible experience for the genuine ones without a habit.

In the future, i would probably offer a meal, hot drink or anything i think a homeless person may appreciate, but not money.

Sampson's avatar

/devil’s advocate mode/
Is someone using money to by drugs or alcohol better than them suffering through withdrawals, detox, or the DT’s on the streets?
/devil’s advocate mode/

I do pretty much what @Facade said. If I have something to spare (food, money, or time), I’ll try and help them out.

CMaz's avatar

Just depends if I am in that mood.

perplexism's avatar

I’ve had to stop giving panhandlers money, because on two separate occasions, the money was used for alcohol. In fact, one of the guys I gave money to, I caught coming out of a liquor store while I was on my way to the gas station. This happened in less than 30 minutes after I gave him money. After that (which was the second incident), I swore off giving money to homeless. Which is unfortunate, because when I had a few bucks to spare, I didn’t really mind helping.

Instead, if I see someone in need now, I bring them food, and even clothing. I also donate to homeless shelters, and varies food drives.

cheebdragon's avatar

I give money to the ones who admit it’s for drugs.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

@cheebdragon I wish I met those homeless people. I am so sick and tired of those cheap sob stories they regurgitate. “Ooh I have AIDS” or “My family is gonna starve!”. Hell, I’ll give them extra just to get some drugs for me.

avvooooooo's avatar

There are people who beg in the town I went to college in that make more per hour than they would working.

I only gave to females (who were less likely to follow me) and only then when Ihad cash, which I hardly ever did. If someone reeked of booze, not a chance.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I give it to the kids. I give it if they are polite and not harrassing. I give it if they seem genuinely down. I give it if they don’t act like they are ‘owed’. I give it if they are sick. I know its for drugs most of the time. I cant help myself.

jrpowell's avatar

Most people that need booze and drugs don’t sit around and beg. They go out and steal your shit. Wanting to get fucked up can really motivate you. My best friend in high school got into heroin. He didn’t sit around asking for change. He stole my Nintendo 64 and my camera and went to a pawn shop. 200 bucks in 30 minutes.

I do give to people that look like they need it. I would just spend it on booze anyways.

dpworkin's avatar

Maimonides proposed that all charity should be anonymous, so a friend of mine and I sometimes get rolls of quarters, and then spread quarters around in the “skid row” part of town for people to find.

YARNLADY's avatar

I give them the business cards that are provided here in our area to help people in need. The charities that help them can provide a lot more in the way of permanent relief than the small change I could give them.

I carry cases of bottled water in my car which I hand out to street people most of the time.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I’m the same as you, sometimes I will gladly give up a bit of change and other times I walk past (even though this makes me feel guilty as hell for a short time). If I have the money to give then usually I don’t mind.

also, and I know this is really bad, I am more inclined to give money to a beggar if they have a dog. I am very aware that they may very well just be using the dog for that very reason but I can never just walk on by if they have a dog which may need caring for as well

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I usually give them something.. but it’s not usually money. I’ll give them water or a sandwich first.. How hungrily they devour the sandwich determines my next move.

filmfann's avatar

My grandfather was homeless by choice. My Mom would always go out at Christmastime and give blankets and coats to the homeless on the streets. She felt she was helping her dad somehow, even though he was many states away, probably.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I had been in NYC for a while, they’re quite a lot of homeless people here…I do judge it case by case, I have given food, dog food, cat food, money, support, cigarettes to various people…I worked for a bit for Care for the Homeless…I’ve done many events in reaching out to the homeless populations, etc…if they have an animal that they take care of or a young child, they’re more likely to get something from me…I very rarely have money with me…sometimes I know it’s for alcohol or drugs…so what…so freaking what, that’s how I look at it…there are so many issues in our world, our society, that makes it difficult for the homeless and for the addicted to get help (yes yes i am a liberal and a socialist and you can get over it), that my dollar isn’t the biggest contributing issue to their problems…

OpryLeigh's avatar

@filmfann If you don’t mind me asking, why did your Grandfather chooe to be homeless.

Obviously you don’t have to answer that if it’s too personal.

StephK's avatar

Normally, I’ll give food. But when that option’s not feasible, I give them money. If the person then does something that makes me regret my decision (say, they asked for money for a bus ticket and then climbs into a car), I try to remember not to give them anything next time.

JLeslie's avatar

I give sometimes, don’t other times. No real rhyme or reason. I give leftovers from restaurants also.

filmfann's avatar

@Leanne1986 My Grandmother died in childbirth to her and my Grandfather’s only child.
My Grandfather couldn’t deal with it, and left my Mom in the care of his mother, then went Hoboing on trains for the next 50 years. He would occasionally stop in a town, find a job, work a few weeks or a month, then leave. He didn’t like staying in one place for very long.
He also had a head injury. I am not sure when he got it, but he was hit in the head with an I-Beam while working building a bridge. He was a remarkable man, with the most amazing stories (he had once signed as a pitcher for the Cardinal’s)

wundayatta's avatar

Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t, and while I have all kinds of rationalizations for not doing it; I still do. I have no idea what makes me decide to sometimes and not others. It seems rather random. Or maybe like some spirit gets into me. Who knows? I sure don’t.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@filmfann He sounds like an incredible character.

Shegrin's avatar

If their clothes are relatively clean, they have a place to stay and are probably making more money than you begging on street corners and at intersections. I once saw a woman who worked the same corner every day climbing into her brand-spanking-new 1-ton double-wheel diesel king cab truck. I don’t trust any of them now.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Shegrin you don’t have to trust her now but that doesn’t mean there are no people in true need out there

Shegrin's avatar

@Simone-De-Beauvoir: How can you tell, though, if they’re putting you on or not? Isn’t that what the question is? Why not just give to charities that support people wanting to get off the streets? Why hand them money on the street? Seems like it would work better to teach them to fish, you know?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Shegrin I do give money to those charities (and believe you me, those can too take advantage of your money) and have, in the past, worked with organizations that help the homeless AND I give money/food/whatever on the streets as well – I let my intuition guide me and my intentions are good – money is just a piece of paper, I will not put its value above my intentions…

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