General Question

ericdpitzer's avatar

What is the appropriate response to homeless people who ask you for change?

Asked by ericdpitzer (14points) May 1st, 2008

We’ve all been there….some poor looking chap or woman asks you for some change on the street. What is the most appropriate response? To walk away? To say, “sorry, I don’t have any change?” even when you do? Please explain.

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39 Answers

delirium's avatar

In the cases that there’s a food place around, I normally go buy them something to eat and give that to them instead of cash. For the homeless who panhandle at intersections I always have protein bars in my glove compartment and I give those to them.

(If its freezing, I’ll usually go and get them a hot coffee or something. It seems like a nice thing to do.)

Breefield's avatar

Yeah, I usually give them food in the event that I give them anything at all.

MisterBlueSky85's avatar

“Got any change, sir?”

“Oh plenty, thank you.”

shared3's avatar

I normally just give them change. I know it might not be the smartest thing ever, but I generally don’t have food on me nor the time to get some for them. I’m aware that I may be paying for some bum’s drug habit…but c’mon, there’s other ways for them to get their hands on some drugs or money.

Mrs_Dr_Frank_N_Furter's avatar

oh oh oh!! ask him if you want to buy him some food or something. then if he says no say then what do you need change for? A little jingle? lol

bulbatron9's avatar

I will always give them change, and if I’ve got some beers then I’ll usually give them a couple! I have even went and got some homeless people six packs, and in the winter I have got them whiskey! Just to warm them up. Just give them money or booze! Always put yourself in their position. You would want someone to help you out.

buster's avatar

i give them change and tell them they must buy beer with it.

Mtl_zack's avatar

if i can see that theyre ding something useful, like playing the spoons, or want to save their child or dog, then i give them whatever coins i have in my pocket. i don’t give to the guys who just sit around with their hands out because what are they gonna do with the money? at least do something productive to get yourself out of this situation.

Randy's avatar

I don’t give them a thing. I know its kinda harsh and it hurts sometimes to see someone it that situation, but hand out won’t help. I still don’t like to call people and set up apointments and what not because I used to always have my mom do it for me when I was young. I know, I know, that’s a little different than poverty, but still. If you feed them and take care of them then what reason do they have to take responsability? I know I work for my spare change, food and liquor. Why shouldn’t they?

TheHaight's avatar

I’m a poor college student! I barely have change for me… But seriously, When I happen to have change, I give them change.. Id buy them food but most of the time I offer they say no.

kevbo's avatar

@eric, I don’t at all mean to criticize your question. (I marked it a GQ, in fact.) I just find it amusing that there might be a rule of etiquette or protocol that applies to this situation. So far the verdict seems to be that it’s up to you.

peedub's avatar

@Mtl zack- did you really just write “useful, like playing the spoons?
I aways try to give something, even if I have to bum it off a less generous friend who’s with me.

richmarshall's avatar

Just as with anything else, there are the ‘few’ who make it difficult for those truly in need. I have seen panhandlers tossing away food that people have given them, and years ago I offered a guy with a “will work for food” sign to do some work and he turned me down…...said he just wanted money.

Also, the local paper did a write up on some panhandlers in the early 90’s and had one guy ‘anonymously’ confess to making $60k a year on his panhandling job.

Mtl_zack's avatar

playing the spoons is a great talent and if you’re good, you can get a spot in a good country band, or a band like in that video. also, many homeless people can only afford spoons, and not a guitar. but i admit, maybe spoons wasnt the right instrument, although i do see a lot of homeless people playing them in quebec. we even have a homeless guy who wasnt allowed playing spoons in front a a certain building, so the people of montreal signed a petition to let him play there. he is jolly an gets a lot of change due to his political fame. maybe guitar is more appropriate, or saxophone.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

“No Thank You”

peedub's avatar

@MZ- No way…I was just messin’. I’m big fan of the bucket.
In the Bay Area a lot of the homeless people are provided with a periodical called Street Spirit. They get stacks of these for free and sell them for a dollar a piece. I usually take one.

Response moderated
susanc's avatar

@Randy, “I work for my spare change, food, and liquor. Why shouldn’t they?”
Well, they should, if they can. Some can’t. Some aren’t well, some aren’t sane. The difficulty is that it’s impossible to diagnose this as you approach them on the sidewalk, so some of us decide they’re scum and walk on bitterly, and others decide they might be in trouble and give them a hand. Who ends up feeling a little bit better?
I know for sure that I was given more than I’ve earned in life so it seems like I should keep the ball rolling.
@xxporkxetc.: ‘course, if they were living in an apartment right next to you, then they
wouldn’t be…... oh, I get it. A Dick-joke. Thanx. Great.

Mtl_zack's avatar

i was just wondering, if the homeless person would like to work for his/her money, would it be appropriate to let him/her paint your house or load furniture into trucks? is that rubbing it in?

my friend once befriended a hobo. he was really pissed off so he just sat on the street next to a random guy and they became friends. after a few days of chit-chat, my friend invited him home for dinner, and pulled a few contacts and got him a job at a gas station. i dont think they keep in touch anymore though.

acebamboo77's avatar

Personally, it depends on the situation. Quite often in downtown ottawa you see alot of vagabonds asking for change. I’ve been approached by middleaged men that really dont look to hard on their luck, and usually say i need the change for the bus.

I usually give change to younger homeless people. I usually make an effort to talk to them too, if I have the time, I’m not one to turn away from people in need, but I think there is a degree of need.

I’ve definitely had lunch with a couple young girls before. I just think that if I were in that sort of situation I would appreciate someones kindness.

peedub's avatar

I will say one thing, I don’t give change to able-bodied gutter punks that often have well to do parents. I hate how condescending some of those brats are.

acebamboo77's avatar

@ peedub, i can agree. thats why i talk to them, get to know them a bit better.
but when they are wearing clothes that look like theyve been in for weeks, and are covered in dirt, and look like someone just stomped on their self esteem, i give them a chance, cause people like that need atleast one

peedub's avatar

No totally, just because someone is physically able to work doesn’t mean they are mentally able. I’m just bitter at the smart ass kids that think it’s cool to hang out on the Ave. all day and harass people for wearing clean clothes and buying records, or any other thing they see as a waste of time. Berkeley is filled these losers.

acebamboo77's avatar

ok, i can completely see where you are coming from then…. id spit in their change cup :P

Mrs_Dr_Frank_N_Furter's avatar

bulbatron9, booze actually constricts your blood

wildflower's avatar

If we’re talking genuine down-on-their-luck-with-no-place-to-go homeless (and not the ones peedub mentioned) I think the right response is:

If you have change: “Here ya go. Good luck.”
If you don’t have change: “Sorry, don’t have any. Good luck”

scamp's avatar

It depends on the situation and my mood. I’ve given food to people too many times and seen it thrown down.

mcbealer's avatar

I usually keep walking. I used to live in Providence, RI and befriended a couple of the resident panhandlers on Thayer Street. It was not unusual for them to rake in $100 – 150 per day.

DS's avatar

If you start to generalize on thinking they make more money than me you’ll end up by being not charitable at all. If you want/ can give do it,but if you can’t don’t struggle yourself the beggars know perfectly well that out of 50 people only one will held them money food or even talk to them.

wildflower's avatar

Personally, I’m big on the ‘something-for-something’ concept. I never hesitate to give money to buskers…..I may even go get change, just to give them. Also buy the occasional Big Issue. At least in those situations, you don’t even think of the person’s situation (my previous point about ‘genuine’).....they’re doing something that I’m happy to support. End of.

loser's avatar

I just say that I don’t have any money. One time a guy answered “I’m sorry, here have some of mine.”

scamp's avatar

@loser did you take it?

loser's avatar

ha! No, I thanked him for the offer though!

scamp's avatar

I think I would have taken it, and brought him back a sandwich!! ha ha

loser's avatar

I wish I’d thought of that!!!

scamp's avatar

If he threw it away, he would be wasting his own money, and not mine for a change. I love turning the tables on scammers!

Randy's avatar

@ susanc- There are still jobs and shelters out there that provide for the handicaped and the poor. Its a little of subject of the poor, but my mom works with mentally challenged children and adults. For the kids they just teach them and the goal is to get them where they can go to public school. Inthe adult program though, the goal is to teach them to be independent. I’m almost positive that there are similar programs for poverty stricken folks.

Either way, I don’t see hand outs as help. I don’t appreciate something as much when its given to me.

scamp's avatar

I agree Randy. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

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