Social Question

windex's avatar

Is it wrong to buy food for the homeless?

Asked by windex (2914 points ) September 30th, 2009

okay…every single time I see a homeless person asking me for change, I just tell them “I don’t have cash but I’ll buy you food if you want”
Is this wrong?
On one hand, I think that if no one ever gave anything to a homeless person, then people would stop asking for stuff. And that the person looks pretty healthy to me so he/she can just work.
But then again, I can’t ignore another human being and let him/her go hungry knowing I could’ve done something.
Your thoughts?

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58 Answers

holden's avatar

Of course it’s not.

Les's avatar

First of all, I have two advanced degrees, and I can’t even find work, so I really don’t think it is that easy for them “just work”. Second, of course it is OK for you to buy them food. That is very good of you. If the person is truly homeless and is really hungry, they’ll appreciate that just as much as cash.

Likeradar's avatar

How could it be wrong? You’re helping a fellow human with a basic need.

babygalll's avatar

No it’s not. I would rather know that my money is getting them food and not something to satisfy an addiction they may have.

RedPowerLady's avatar

There was a huge debate on this before on Fluther (more about giving money than food). I hope it doesn’t get into that again.
Personally I believe that it is Never wrong to help someone out. Most people are not homeless by choice or the choices they continue to make. Also buying someone food is way less controversial than giving them money because there is no way they can use it for negative purposes.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Just because someone looks healthy doesn’t mean they are. I am so freaking tired of getting nasty looks for using handicapped parking for the last month. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with giving someone food, regardless of whether they’re healthy or not.

eponymoushipster's avatar

i read this question as “make food from the homeless” for a second. that would be wrong.

Facade's avatar

@La_chica_gomela I agree completely.
@windex I think it’d be wrong not to

windex's avatar

true true, there are exceptions, but I’m sure there are a lot of homeless people who just don’t want to play the game.

by game i mean running around like crazy all your life so you can gather more things that you like for yourself

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@windex: When you’re buying them food do you ever ask them their story? Why they’re homeless? It can be eye-opening.

oratio's avatar

Why would it be wrong? I think that’s very nice of you.

Adagio's avatar

@La_Chica_Gomela just interested to know the background behind the handicapped parking comment? as somebody who used a wheelchair for years I found it enormously frustrating (euphemism) when an able-bodied person used a disabled (US handicapped) parking space

Giving food to the homeless? Yes, why ever not?

YOUNGx420xBABII's avatar

Some people on the streets are drunks, And they only as for money to get beer and stuff. But some people would say no, I say no its not because your helping the needy and thats a good deed showing you have a big heart :D

jrpowell's avatar

This is fucking capitalism. Everyone that wants to work can’t… It is built into the fucking system. It is called the natural unemployment rate. My head is about to explode.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I usually give what I would have wasted anyway. It doesn’t matter their reason for asking… the fact that they are laying on the ground with a nit cap and some newspaper is reason enough for me to not buy the soda I was going to buy.

Now if I really just don’t have cash I only offer to those who I think are likely to take me up on the offer.. and quite honestly.. if it doesn’t interfere with any of my plans for the day.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@johnpowell: I am so confused by your statement that “Everyone that wants to work can’t…”—do you mean “Not everyone that wants to work can”? or..because I mean…some people do work

Facade's avatar

@La_chica_gomela I think he means that most out looking for jobs can’t find them/can’t get hired/can’t get a job that pays enough to survive.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@Facade: So, “Not everyone that wants to work can” basically?

Facade's avatar

Yes :)

Judi's avatar

I said it before and I’ll say it again (in case you missed the last homless thread.)
it’s the condition of MY heart that matters, not there’s.

aprilsimnel's avatar

No, that wouldn’t be wrong at all.

jrpowell's avatar

What I am saying is that the way things fluctuate 100 percent employment is impossible. It simply will not not happen. That homeless dude without a phone number will not get hired at Burger King when a pretty 17 year old drops a application at the same place.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@johnpowell: So “Not everyone that wants to work can” basically?

YARNLADY's avatar

From one individual to another, it is usually not wrong to give food. If you carry food with you and are found passing it out on a regular basis, you can be arrested. If you are inviting homeless people into your home on a regular basis and feeding them, you can be arrested. If you set up a ‘feeding table’ in the park for the general public, you can be arrested. All of these examples have been reported in our local newspaper.

holden's avatar

@YARNLADY That defies logic. Why would people be arrested for that?

Judi's avatar

Mental illness is not always aparent in apperance. Just because someone looks able bodied doesn’t mean they can work.

YARNLADY's avatar

For violating the health/food service codes, and not having a proper license.

Facade's avatar

@YARNLADY wow. The US is really pissing me off as of late, worrying about policy and procedure while people starve.

holden's avatar

my head is exploding.
That is bizarre. A couple of Christmases ago a few friends and I got together and had a baking party. We made about 350 – 400 cookies in one night and I brought them to the homeless shelter the next day. They were accepted graciously. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make sure my cookies conformed to health and safety regulations before I brought them in.

YARNLADY's avatar

@holden Our local shelter probably would not accept home-made cookies, because just last year, they had an outbreak of Legionnaires disease from contaminated food.

rooeytoo's avatar

I always buy food. In the city of Darwin, it is impossible to walk down any street without being humbugged as they call begging here. I will not give money because too often it is used for alcohol and cigarettes, so I will take them to the nearest food store and buy a loaf of bread and some meat of their choice.

Here, more often than not people are not working because they don’t want to and I know they receive welfare but it is spent on booze but I hate to see anyone truly hungry when my belly is full.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@holden
@YARNLADY

Shelters here won’t accept any homemade food. We’ve had lots of food to give after events but they won’t accept it.

Lovely idea though to have such a baking party.

Judi's avatar

If the shelters won’t take it you may be able to find faith based mens homes that will.

holden's avatar

:( That’s really disappointing, actually, because we had so much fun and I wouldn’t know what else to do with 400 cookies. I don’t know of any faith based mens’ homes in my city either.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Judi Good suggestion, there are other homes, such as Ruth House and the Woman’s Retreat from Violence that might accept it.

Most charities will accept commercially packaged foods, and gift cards from grocery stores, but it’s always best to call ahead.

For one person to give another person some food, in private, is probably not going to get anyone in trouble.

Judi's avatar

@holden, I don’t know how to find them either unless you ask a church in the roughest neighborhood in your city. They probably either sponsor one or know of one.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Would it be wrong to buy someone who does have a job a free meal? I can kind of see what you mean by worrying that you are enabling them to be homeless by helping them, but I suspect there is a lot more to fixing the homeless problem then, if we stop feeding them they will get jobs and help themselves. So don’t feel bad about it.

SmellyBoy's avatar

In my opinion, always give them food, never money. Better that they actually get some sustenance instead of the possibility of them spending the money on booze or drugs.

JONESGH's avatar

Just throwing this out there some people’s homeless situations have nothing to do with booze or drugs

Judi's avatar

Hebrews 13:2
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares..

LostInParadise's avatar

@YARNLADY , Is it legal for people to give out canned food?

missingbite's avatar

Wrong? No. The best option? No. Every city has homeless shelters or churches that help provide for the homeless. It is not safe on the street. I would say it is better to find a shelter that has a good reputation of using the money donated to them for the homeless and donate what you can to them. A lot of time they can help the hungry and also help people get off the streets.

SmellyBoy's avatar

@JONESGH which is why I said the possibility of it.

JONESGH's avatar

Wasn’t directing that commenting directly at you @SmellyBoy many on this thread have been stating that

SmellyBoy's avatar

@JONESGH Word…. You’re right too, not all homeless people are drug addicts and alcoholics.

YARNLADY's avatar

@LostInParadise I have not read of anyone getting arrested for that. I believe giving out commercially packaged or canned food is not illegal. Personally, I give out bottled water and business cards that are provided by the various charities in town.

Now that you gave me the idea, I will begin to carry easy to open cans of food as well.

windex's avatar

yea, you know what pisses me off the most about these nonsense laws, the fact that you will be arrested or at least given a ticket if you stop on the hwy to help someone’s w/a flat

It is one of the Stupidest things I have ever heard.

YARNLADY's avatar

@windex Maybe you need to do some volunteer work at the ER to see what happens to people who stop on the hwy.

rooeytoo's avatar

If it is an older person or couple, I will stop to help change the tire, damn the ticket. But that is news to me, what state gives tickets for that?

oratio's avatar

Well, it’s not legal on the expressway, but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be able to do that elsewhere.

empower's avatar

I ask God what he wants then I ask them about themselves and see if there are other ways they could be helped. I usually give them money as even homeless people have the right to be treated with dignity. My diseased father in Law was a substance abuser and a salvation army captain gave him money which he used to buy food so as not to dishonor the minister’s gift..He never forgot this and that the man did not treat him like a beggar and when he was able to change his llife he always gave a portion of his money to orphans in third world countries, homeless people and for meds people could not afford . If I was homeless I would want someone to see me as a person too

empower's avatar

If they were hungry I would feed them…it would depend on what they need and what I have…I just would not give food to say if I feed them they can’t use the money for….Once it is in their hands it is theirs and I feel I have no right to control a gift

rooeytoo's avatar

@empower – I won’t put money in the hands of anyone who reeks of alcohol and cigarette smoke and can barely stand up. I have to work too hard to earn it, but I don’t like to see anyone hungry so I put food in their belly.

Is this another case of the christian judgement of my actions? If so, remember what your book says, something about judging not lest ye be judged.

empower's avatar

No, not at all, actually a lot of Christians will only feed them….I am saying I have done both and to me any action that is propelled by compassion is worth celebrating. “I dont like to see people hungry so I feed them” is huge because lots of people really don’t care. You saw them and you saw their hunger and you chose to do something about it. Years ago we helped with relief for a hurricane and space was at a premium. Someone sent truckloads of disposable diapers and we were tearing our hair out trying to sort out where to put them…they ended up being a bridge between several agencies, helped people, and likely did more than anything we would have advised people to send…so mostly I was trying to say stay open and that people who have a heart that is open to those who have nothing have greatness and I value this regardless of religion or any other factor.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i can’t think of any act of kindness that should be looked down upon.
and it’s a much better solution than just giving them money, just in case.

oratio's avatar

In the old days the poor sat on the steps of the church. Do people still do that in the US? Gather around churches?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@oratio yeah, usually for a bean supper or tag sale in the church parking lot.

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