I will certainly buy food for someone who says he is hungry, and back when I had a running vehicle I would carry granola bars or apples (in the summertime). And hand them out to the ones who hang out at the intersections.
I will not hand out money however, I refuse to contribute to someone’s addiction, or refusal to help themselves. There are so many places available here to assist people who are hungry or need a place to sleep. There are also a ton of places that help people (for free) obtain their HS diploma, job skills, even interview clothing.
There have been more times than not when an offer of a meal has been turned down or scoffed at. My former BF and I were in DC awhile back. We were at the food court in (I think it was Grand Central?), and we were approached by a beggar saying he was hungry. My BF didn’t miss a beat, he says “sure, get in line with us and we’ll get you whatever you want”. The guy says “well, I don’t want Chinese, I want [names place clear across the food court]”. BF is still thinking quickly, “well we’re pretty hungry and we don’t want our food to get cold, so as soon as we’re done eating we’ll go over there with you and get what you want”. The guy left.
Similar episodes have happened to me here in town. There are a number of these panhandlers who’ve got “the story”. Some have the “out of gas” story and they approach you when you’re at the gas station. “Help, I’m out of gas, my car is just over there (points vaguely down the street) and I need a few bucks to get to work”. Since during the day, I’m usually in the “workbeast” my company’s field truck, I hold up our gas can and say “sure, I’ll get you some, where are you parked? I’m not allowed to let anyone in the company truck so I’ll meet you there”. Funny, they never take me up on it.
I bought one guy a hotdog at one of the local streetvendors. He got the hotdog and then after we’d walked away from the hotdog vendor, he started making noises like “well, I’m supposed to take something to my GF too”. I basically just said “bring her over, I’ll get her one too”. He starts making excuses like “well, she’s not here yet, I have to wait for her, it’ll be awhile, maybe I could just buy her one when she gets here…” Obviously trying to angle for money instead.
To answer sitnam’s ponderings. I don’t think it helps most people. It is that we are fairly removed from the consequences of enabling these folks, other than the few quarters or buck or two if we should happen to give money.
Do you think that this would be tolerated from able-bodied, able-minded (of COURSE we should assist people who truly can’t help themselves) folks if they were actually part of a small community where everyone’s work was needed for actual survival?
You think that back in cave-man days, if Urg was apt to party half the night and then was too hungover to get up and help hunt saber-toothed rabbit, or gather berries that it would go over very well in his cave or village?
Nope…Donk, Blug and Grog would be kicking his ass out of his furs and saying “NO WAY dude, we’re NOT doing all the work while you do nothing to contribute to the welfare of our community, too bad if you’re hungover, QUIT DRINKING IDIOT!!!”. A couple of days of trying to hunt or gather while hungover would likely cure Urg of his drunken habits, or at the very least, at least make him keep it to a reasonable minimum so he could work halfway pain free. And if Urg kept trying to play the helpless drunk card too much, I’ll betcha dollars to donuts that he’d find his ass on an ice-floe in no time flat. (no, I’m NOT saying we need to place panhandlers in cold-storage).
So yeah, we allow it and it’s an enabler. Because unlike our ancestors, how these people behave doesn’t impinge upon our survival. Now, it’s just an annoyance rather than having to feed a mouth that doesn’t add to the group’s ability to survive. I would bet a couple of paychecks that if there was suddenly a complete halt to any money being paid to panhandlers, that the number of beggars would decrease to near zero in an amazing hurry, and that the number of entry level/minimum wage jobs would be getting filled to capacity.
(whine whine…but Shoes… then there’d be a glut of unskilled workers and that would create so many economical problems… yeah, yeah blah blah…that’s a whole 'nother thread).