Giving $$ to beggars: Protocol. Let's Share & Critique.

It’s the season for giving. And shopping. And, being hit up by beggars. I have no problem with giving money to beggars, or whatever you want to call them. If I have some cash, I’ll be glad to share. Not a big split, mind you, but at least 5 bucks. But, I do have rules. Why? Because I don’t like to be manipulated. Giving cash to people down on their luck, or ones that can’t cope is something that everybody should do-I also think that being lazy doesn’t automatically disqualify somebody. Smoking doesn’t disqualify in my book either. I don’t smoke, but I used to, and I know that smoking is a necessity, if you’re a smoker. However, giving money to some jerk who gives me some made up story, and thinks that I look like a mark, isn’t going to happen.
My rules for giving:

  1. If they ask me at the outskirts of the parking lot, where I am the only person there, they can forget it. If they are really in need, they won’t be skulking about way out in the boonies, but, rather, up where there is more population, and have a better chance of getting hits. Waiting out where there’s ‘nobody else around’ just smells fishy.
  2. If they say ‘Excuse me, sir, may I speak to you for a moment?" Answer: NO. If I’m going to pay, I’m going to pay to NOT waste my time having to listen to a complete stranger. A story just says to me "I’m a liar, and I think that you are dumb and I’m going to prove it by getting your money.’
  3. If they come to my house. Some stranger coming to my house expecting money can more readily make it to the hospital, police station, fire department, Salvation Army, DHS, local shopping area, or whatever, than get to my house. I live in the center of a neighborhood. Why did they pass these places and zero in on my house? I have family there, and there is enough risk without feeding some stray, and encouraging him to come back when I’m not there.
  4. If I have to take the active role in the situation. Example: The other day, a guy stopped me. From about 15 to 20 feet away. He said, ‘Excuse me, sir. Can you help me? …(wind blowing)…mumble…mumble…" I said “What? I’m sorry?? What?” (handsomeharry bending forward, leaning to some mumbling idiot)…So, the jerk didn’t even raise his voice, and didn’t even lean forward half as much as ol’ Stupid was doing. He definitely didn’t bother to even take a step closer. I finally realized the ridiculousness of the situation, and walked off. So, if somebody needs MY money, they are going to have to really put out the effort to show me that they are trying to get me to pay, not deciding whether or not to favor me with an audience.
  5. I don’t give to organizations, even when they’re out on the street doing beggar work. (e.g., the Salvation Army. I love these guys, but the bell ringers aren’t SA members, just hired temps. Don’t trust 'em. )

That’s my list. What’s yours? How do you evaluate whether or not you’ll give? Do you give? Why or why not? Am I a jerk, or an old softie?

Hold forth!


These are my rules and they’re very simple.

  1. I’m not giving you anything.

I have certain charities that I make monthly donations towards, but I will not give money to some homeless beggar on the street. I live in NYC and they all have the same story, “Can I ask you a question…?,” “I’m just collecting money for my basketball team,” they’re always on the subway cars singing and being obnoxious trying to get cash. And when you don’t give they get angry at you. Fuck that, I’m under no obligation to give you anything. That they feel entitled to my money is what makes me never want to give them anything.

Same as Eyebrows of Doom, never give anything. Panhandlers exist because people give them money.

Plus I live in a place where I get hit up a few times a day. If I gave everyone that asked me for change 5 bucks I’d be homeless too.

I generally don’t give money to people who say “Spare some change?”. What I do now (not addressing the issue of giving money to charities and such) is, I give money to people who are very obviously down on their luck. If I see an old guy with a full beard and 18 layers of holey clothing pushing a cart, I may say something like “Pardon me, would a couple of bucks be any help?”, and give them a couple of dollars. Similarly, if a guy is picking up cigarette butts off the ground or out of the ashtrays, I’ll often offer them some cash.

The benefit is, I’m making the approach, I’ve picked the target, I believe that they need the cash, and I keep the initiative. Everybody else gets a ‘Sorry, not today’. I don’t know if this is the right or wrong approach, but so far, so good.

Same as the other two. I give to the charities of my choice (and pretty generously, too, more than a tenth) but I will NEVER give money to someone who approaches me when I’m out in public. Or to a stranger who calls me on the phone. I’m willing to give money to my relatives and friends who call me on the phone, mind you, but not random charities. If someone needs gas, or food, then I will purchase the necessity…but I won’t give cash.

ETA: Same as the first two respondents.

I give food.

Short story: I had finished grad school and doing the temp typist thing and living off friends assorted couches until I could make enough money for a one way ticket to Japan. It was foggy/drizzling in SF and I was on a semi date with a college buddy. We to a pizza place and I took half in a doggie bag to eat the next day at work. There was a black guy who was patiently waiting in the damp and asked for a handout. He was obviously down on his luck, probably homeless, and polite. I pretended in my best big city manner to not acknowlege it.

When I got on BART and was going across the bay, I realized I was the biggest asshole in the universe. Obviously, I still feel bad about that. I could have just given the guy my leftover pizza, done a good deed, and never give it a second thought.

I’ll chip in toward a fire extinquisher if someone is actually on fire. Otherwise, my money goes to organizations that not only spend it wisely but can leverage it with bulk purchasing power.

giving money to beggars encourages the behavior and diverts money from the truly needy.

I give nothing. I used to work for a non-profit, and I see how it works. Basically, they spend all their time asking for money from the government (along with private donors, but the vast majority from the government) so they’re getting tax money. Then, they help these poor people. Imho, they’re getting my money anyway, so why give them more?

I usually keep a couple of £s in my coat pocket to give to the homeless people I pass going to and from work. If I’m near a food shop I’ll often go in and buy the person something warm to eat. I also make monthly contributions to the charity I work for (which supports the homeless amongst others) and to Shelter.

I never give money to bums who approach me. It will only make their situation worse.

Sometimes I give, sometimes I don’t. I always acknowledge their existence unless there is some VERY good reason not to (I can’t think of one right now) because they are human beings. Crafter_Man, how is giving them money making their specific situation worse? Are you saying that NOT giving them money will make their situation better? How so, exactly? If not giving them a dollar would put them on the road to sobriety, that would be great, but I don’t think that’s the effect. I think it just makes them more desperate. Panhandlers are usually addicted to something or too mentally ill to function in society. So sometimes I think it actually does make their existence a little less hellish for a little while, and a lot of those folks are in such shape that the dollars of passersby can’t really make their situation worse than it already is. Of course, it’s a personal choice to give or not and I don’t think people should pass judgment on those who do OR don’t; and I see the benefit of giving money to charitable organizations who are experts at this, but I’ve always thought the “it’s just going to make their situation worse” seems a bit of an unrealistic cop-out/perhaps a way to salve one’s conscience for not giving.

My protocol has always been similar to Attack from the 3rd Dimension’s. I’m unlikely to give my money to some young beggar who’s just trying to bounce from town to town on everybody else’s dime.

Now, if you’re some guy with a foot long grey beard, 5 layers of dirty, mistmatched, clothing, and you’re screaming at the top of your lungs into thin air, I will give you money. Some people just are not blessed with the gift of sanity and soundness of mind. If you often find yourself screaming at the wind, you will have a VERY difficult time finding a steady job, and I realize this. People should take care of those who were born with such a shaky mental foundation - it’s not their fault and their really is not much else they are capable of doing in their current situation.

i do quite a bit of work with the homeless, and giving them money is a bad idea, and not recommenced. I don’t do so.

Speaking as a recovering alcoholic, giving an addict or alcoholic cash is the worst thing you can do for them. All they will do is use the cash to get loaded again. By giving them cash you are effectively buying them the substance that is killing them. Let me put it this way, if an addict asked you to buy him some heroin, would you do it? How is giving the guy cash so he can buy the drug different than buying the drug for him yourself?

It is not a good idea.

If you really want to help, give money to a charity that works with the homeless or addicts/alcoholics.


I don’t give to panhandlers.

I do usually give to street performers, if they are displaying some kind of skill or at least verve for their art. I am pretty tired of Andean pipe bands. There was a fad mid-90s for for drumming on old joint compound buckets and other found items. I actually kind of miss that. (I feel like one of the more well known guys doing this was actually featured in a movie? or an episode of some TV show? Am I imagining things?)

If I truly believe the person is destitute, I won’t give them cash, but will sometimes cruise into the nearest fast-food drive thru and buy them a value meal or something. If I give them cash, they may feel like they need a drink/drug more than they need food, but they really do need food!

Eh. We’ve had a couple stories in central Indiana the last few weeks of someone dropping a Kreugerrand into the Salvation Army kettle.

Huh - and doing a “salvation army krugerrand” search reveals it’s a pretty common occurrance across the country. Cool.

I have occasionally offered food to the homeless. I will never give them money but if I think they really need it I will buy them a burger or whatever. About 2/3 of the time I get turned down though, which makes me think they aren’t as hungry as they say they are and they just want drugs. There are two kinds of beggars I will never, ever, ever give anything to for any reason and I would not pour water on them if they were on fire: homeless people using animals to try to get you to give and homeless people playing music/dancing/selling candy in a subway car. The first are people who don’t give two shits about their pet and have never once taken me up on the offer to give their pet a good home (because drugging your cat and putting him in your lap on the train platform apparently makes you pretty good money) and the second box you into a position where you can’t walk away from them to force you to listen to their schpiel. Either way they don’t get anything from me.

I give to Habitat for humanity. I figure if they’re far enough along demonstrating they want to better themselves, then I’m all for helping them.

I’ve worked in Downtown Denver for the last 12 years or so. I’ve seen a number of panhandlers (Purse stolen, need ticket to Salt Lake City) here for years. It’s just another choice of career.

I could give them every dollar I have, and next week, they’d STILL be there…and I’d be there right with them, too.

The only time I encounter begging is when I’m in downtown Cleveland. There are signs up now that ask people not to give to beggars and have instructions on where to send donations. So, I don’t give to beggars anymore.

I WILL give someone a cigarette if they ask. I did it the last three times I was downtown. Usually they even try to give me a quarter for it, and I just say no.