Homeless/beggars asking for money

After a recent visit to DC it struck me how many of the people begging for money looked and sounded perfectly able-bodied. One guy was even rapping about Obama. I can’t ever picture myself giving money directly to beggars, if you wanted to help homeless people it would be more productive to donate to a shelter or soup kitchen.

It also seems to me that handing money directly to these people perpetuates the begging and homeless problem. Anybody else feel that way?

Yes. And beyond that, it pisses me off when I see other people give them money.

While I agree that giving money to beggars is a bad idea, and that there are professional beggars who would be capable of doing work if there was any work to do, it’s wrong to assume that someone who looks able-bodied is perfectly healthy.

There are all sorts of illnesses, including mental illnesses, where someone can look perfectly fine to a casual observer.

There are few who don’t.

Indianapolis has set up give boxes on corners downtown with frequent homeless/panhandlers. The thought being that people who are afraid of confrontation can just say, “sorry - I gave at the box”.

However, I do want to correct your “looked and sounded perfectly able-bodied” comment. People with mental illnesses and/or drug addictions “look and sound perfectly able-bodied.” But they do know exactly where to get help - the existence of shelters is not a secret to anyone.

But if you are going to donate money somewhere - I’d recommend against most emergency shelters. Donate to the local advocacy group or find a good transitional housing program in the area with a proven track record.

We have a few Dopers who work at homeless shelters. They all agree that giving money to individual homeless people is a bad thing. They suggest donating to charities that help the homeless instead.

Usually I don’t give anything to anyone, charities, churches, political campaigns or panhandlers.

However there are exceptions if the beggar is quite candid. Recently, leaving a mall a man asked for five bucks for some wine. In appreciation for the candor, I gave him five dollars.

Once I had 4 dollars to my name and a fellow seemed pretty down and out with a cardboard sign that said “anything you can give would be very much appreciated.” I was giving him two of my dollars when I stopped and asked him “How do I know you won’t just waste this on food or something like that?” Without missing a beat, he came right back with “you’ll just have to trust me.” I gave him all 4 bucks. I figured the story was worth that much at least.

Besides illnesses and addictions, there are homeless people out there that live that life because they like it- it’s what they choose to do. It is possible to not want to be encumbered by things like houses and bills and to not want to participate in a capitalist society. And if they can survive like that because enough people do help them, then I don’t begrudge them that, even if I myself don’t help them.

When it comes to giving to the the homeless, I dont think I (or other people) have any business telling anyone else what the “right” thing to do with their money is…

If you feel good about cutting a check to the Salvation Army or Red Cross, may God Bless your generousity.

If instead, you like slipping some random person on the street a few bucks when the Spirit moves you, that is also a perfectly valid way of helping your fellow brother or sister.

Many people may do a little bit of each from time to time, and I have to ask what can possibly be wrong with that?

I don’t justify it as right or wrong because it’s just a personal preference, but I’m most likely to give money to the beggars who are older and clearly deranged. I feel the sorriest for them and God knows if they spend it on wine or drugs I won’t begrudge them the moments of happiness in their lives.

The people I am least likely to give money to are the “My car’s broken down but can magically be repaired for $14.82” sob story folks, which I’ve always known means that at sometime in the future karma will stand me in a stange city without ID or debit card or money and with a car that needs $14.82 worth of repair work.

The thing is homelessnes is more than simply not having a place to live, it’s about being in a situation where you have no one in the world to help. Now this can be due to your fault or no fault of your own.

Ask yourself this, what if I told you to get out of your house with just the clothes on your back.

OK you do this. Now go make it in the world. How do you do this?

When I ask people this, the answer is always like, “I would never be in that situation.” Well perhaps, but they don’t answer my question.

Find a job with NO references. Find a job with one set of clothes. Find a job with no phone. Find a job… Well you get the idea.

Look no one says “Gee, I want to lose all my diginity. Or I’m just to lazy to work.” Begging is hard work, it’s humiliating too.

The fact is if you’re a homeless there is a reason for this. You have no support system, if you did someone would take you in.

Homelessness is complex because a lot of them bring it on themselves. If you’re a druggie and paying your dealer instead of your landlord, you won’t get much sympathy and you don’t deserve it, but that isn’t solving the problem.

Whenever you get a topic like this it consistantly floats back to “they broght it on themselves.” And if this is true, fine, but it stating a problem does nothing to solve it. It’s like saying “Well you jumped off the roof and broke your leg. You shouldn’t have done that.” Well knowing you shouldn’t have done that is useful advice for the future but it doesn’t heal your leg.

The OP said "the person looked able bodied, so do many people with epilepsy, or MS or heart diseases. They can have periods where they are fine, but periods that make long term employment difficult to obtain or keep. I knew one guy with epilepsy, he’d shake a lot but had hours where he was fine. He always got jobs, of course he didn’t keep them very long. Add that to the fact he couldn’t drive a car, so he was very limited in his option but this guy was 23, young fit and handsome, until you saw him shaking, which he did several times per hour.

For me, I would give my money to the Salvation Army. I have done a lot of volunteering and these people get results. Yeah there’s a religious thing to it, which some people object,but they do get results on a shoestring budget.

Whether it’s homelessness or drug programs or unwed mothers, they help a lot of people. More importantly the SA get’s long term results. I personally have seen people get back on their feet and get jobs, and housing and get off drugs, thanks to them

Of coure, there is the religious angle to sit through. But it’s like anything in life, you take the good and bad. And sitting through some religous talk to get your life back on track isn’t going to hurt anyone permanently

I usually don’t give cash to homeless people. But if I see a beggar, and I was on my way through the McD’s drivethrough to get myself a double cheeseburger and Coke, I’ll pick up an Extra Value Meal for them, too, drive back and give it to them.

I’m also a big fan of the Salvation Army. I know there are people here who don’t like them because of their strong religious bent. But I believe they do a lot of good with the money they collect during the holiday season. I never pass a SA kettle without putting at least my pocket change in it, and several times during the season, I try to slip in some “folding money”, too.

I often wonder if there are any REAL beggars in Bangkok. It’s straight out of Dickens. Lots of beggars, but they all have minders and have to turn their money in at the end of the day. Often, they’re not even Thai! Many Cambodians are used.

Then there are the themes that seem to go by the month. One month it will be women with babies. The next month little children with puppies. Etc. Often the babies don’t belong to the women beggars holding them but are rented out. There was even one case in Pattaya that made it into the news, in which a transvestite rented “her” neighbor’s baby to go begging with!

One time the authorities got fed up with the increasing numbers of Cambodians being brought over from the border to beg, rounded them all up, and flew them to Phnom Penh. That must have been a real treat, their first-ever airplane ride, and at taxpayers’ expense!

It’s a real mafia situation, and any legitimate beggars who appear are lucky to get away with their lives. The beggars you see are all statiotioned. I used to have a nodding acquaintance with one lady who occupied the exact same spot in Siam Square for years, always with the same fake leg wound displayed. Some of the “armless” beggars clearly have their arms folded up under their shirts. And for the genuine quadriplegics, well you have to wonder exactly how a man with no arms or legs makes it to the middle of a pedestrian overpass above a street.

Children go around late at night in the red-light districts to beg, and if you’re observant you can see them all meeting at their agreed-on point to be picked up in the wee hours.

I’m always pissed off at the clueless tourists who give money. Just want to slap them up the side of their head.

The above sounds like the Beggar Mafia from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE that is of course based in fact. I wondered when I watched that movie- suppose that the minder didn’t maim the kids like that one did (and some do much worse even than blinding or amputation it seems) but just provided them with food and shelter in exchange for most of their take- would it be a good or bad thing, and does it happen?

I’ve not heard of intentional maiming for purposes of begging here, but I can’t say it would surprise me.

Giving money to street people doesn’t offer them any improvement in their situation, so I don’t do it.

I am sure there are some people who do make a choice to be homeless, but I don’t think they are necessarily making a rational choice and I would strongly challenge whether they have an idealogical reason as described here. I think people who make this type of choice are not psychologically healthy.

When I first moved to Albuquerque, I saw a lot of beggars on the main street running past the university, so many that I toyed with the idea of begging for a few days just to see how much these people actually got. I was in no way down and out; it would have just been an experiment. As I was new in town and no one knew me, it would have been perfect. But then I lost the notion as I started meeting people and it felt like I’d be running into too many of them and having to explain.

Word. I resent people telling me what to do with my money. I give yearly to the Salvation Army and Unicef. I’m not religious, but my mother told me that the Salvation Army helped her at one point in her life, no questions asked, so I want to support their work.

As for panhandlers, I don’t have a general rule. I’ve given money over the years to some people and not to others, though I almost always give to buskers. I buy L’Itineraire when I’m downtown, a magazine sold by homless people who may be down on their luck, or alcoholics, or drug addicts. A lot of homeless people sell the paper, and some of them write the articles, do the interviews, etc. under the guidance of a few professionals. It’s even helped quite a few get off the street and has spawned a diner where people can get a full meal for 2 dollars. The paper also a very good read with a different outlook on the news.

So to anyone who criticizes me for giving to homeless people if I choose to, I say mind your own gd business.

Something I used to do years ago was carry McDonald’s gift certificates. When they’d beg “just a few dollars for lunch” I’d give them a few bucks’ worth of gift certificates. That way, I knew they were getting actual FOOD (well, what can loosely be described as food) with what I gave them. Most just smiled and were appreciative; I do remember one who had a “What the hell am I to do with this?” reaction. Too bad.

Hubby will say no, but offer to buy food if we’re going into a Starbucks/grocery store/fast food/etc. Most of the time they’re okay with it and it seems cool. I do remember one outside a bagel shop that seemed to do this a LOT…the people inside weren’t happy to see him come in with hubby to place an order.

In the last few years, I have more often offered the feeble line, “I don’t carry cash.” That’s what I told the guy in the Target parking lot who offered to clean my windshield in exchange for a few bucks. Then I felt guilty; then I shook it off. I’m 8+ months pregnant and was feeling protective of both myself and Son 2.0, so I let it be.

You’re part of the problem, you’re an enabler. You’ve shown the guy that if he asks enough people he’ll get money for wine. The cycle continues.

I don’t think the problems the homeless have are going to be solved by random donations from people on the street.