Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Give Liberally, Give Wisely

At this time of year, many people feel the need to give handouts. It makes them feel better. But the problem is that people often give to feel better, without thinking of the consequences of their giving.

In church this Sunday, the speaker mentioned how he'd passed a homeless man and gave him 50 cents even though he had $5 in his pocket. He really battled with himself over those $5 and almost gave them to the homeless guy, but he didn't. He mentioned how much he regretted that now.

I wish this church had been more interractive. I would've spoken up and said "Why? Why do you think you should've given the man even more money when you don't know him or his circumstances?"

Coming from a more experienced viewpoint now, and having interviewed local homeless and the charities that try to help them, I can tell you that when you give money to a homeless person you are very likely to harm them. This is money which can be used for drugs, alcohol, or useless things that don't help in any way.

Some groups say that they wish to provide meals and housing. Until recently, I thought that was the right thing to do. But you know what? When you provide the basic necessities to someone, it frees up whatever monies they have that can be spent on the drugs or alcohol that they crave.

Of course there are some people that are homeless by no fault of their own, but I've discovered that they're exceedingly few and they don't remain homeless for long because they want to work, do the right thing, and achieve independance.

The Bible says that if anyone does not work, neither should he eat.* I used to think that was pretty harsh, but now I see the reasoning behind it. We would all do well to remember that advice.

So if you're going to give to charity this month, please think it through. Is the money you're giving going to produce the results that you agree with? Do you know what will be done with it?

Perhaps it would be better to find a family that is struggling but trying, and lend them a helping hand.

In the past, I've given away a car to people that were barely making it. The car made the difference between failure and success. I've given other things away that helped improve someone's quality of life. But I do it carefully. I urge you to do the same.

*Thessalonians 3:10


Ed Abbey said...

I've only once helped a homeless person and that was in Flagstaff, Arizona of all places. I was killing time before my trip and the people at the local restaurant had refused him service. I took him inside, said he belonged with me and bought the man a meal. He had at first refused saying he would rather have the cash but I didn't buy into if for the reasons you mentioned. Never thought that now that he was fed he might have more money for that night's fix.

Kathleen said...

I buy gifts for children at the abuse shelter. I do this in the name of my mother. I am especially fond of buying for the older children there. It seems that they are the kids most forgotten at Christmas. This year, my grandson and I are purchasing items for a boy his age who is living in the domestic abuse shelter (CASA)with his mother and sister. But, as you said, I am careful about the causes to which I give money.

Saur, I agree with you on the other. For the most part, homelessness is more often a choice than not. But, I do worry about those who find themselves on the streets with children or severe mental illness. Because of that, I do give to organizations providing food and shelter only as long as part of their mission and practice is linking with services that are focused on intervention and prevention.

Merry Christmas.

~Deb said...

Hmm...when you give, God knows your heart. What that person does with your gifts is for God to handle. It is scary to think that it may be spent on drugs. But, even if you give a homeless man a sandwich, you're still acting in a humane way. We all have struggles and should put ourselves in their shoes. You never know, it could be one of us asking for money or food or shelter.

I do see where you're coming from, but in most cases, we fully don't know their circumstances or lifestyles really.

QUASAR9 said...

I know, I know Saur Kraut -
so hard to decide to when you give
Do you have Medical Charities in the US - you know appealing for your good will to find cures for this and that ...
maybe they should be honest and explain which mansion your charity will pay for, which swimming pool or which supercar.

If a doctor or charity wants to prove to me they are a charity or altruistically looking for a cure, they might first show me their bank balance, their home, their car

If they are already living better than I am, isn't it a cheek to try to appeal to my 'charity' - if they are genuine then their priority should be healing or research, not a 'larger' home or car or whatever pxxck extension!

So it is not just the homeless or the unemployed are good at getting money out of mugs.

But always remember every homeless or unemployed person is there,so that you may thank your lucky stars.
Imagine if they got off their arses, cleaned-up their act, and then offered to do your job for less, or started the same business as yours across the road undercutting your prices

Putting you out of work, or out of business in a 'competitive' market.
And when you lost your job and your business, and are forced to sell your home - they come and buy it for a 'song'

Whoever is where they are -
Think about it - "there, but by the grace of god go I"

When the saying "no work, no food" was introduced, slavery was common place - "no shag the boss, no eat"

banditry & scavenging was common place - reprisals, and frequent tribal attacks to loot & plunder were commonplace. Reminds me of a certain place on earth today.

In Western society - if they removed the benefits system, and made all those unable to find work or to work - homeless & penniles, what would be the result?

If you have crime & theft, despite a benefits system, imagine what it would be like in a society where the only way people can feed themselves or feed their other addictions - IS through crime!.

QUASAR9 said...

Saur kraut, having said all that,
I am sympathetic to your views:
"we should first help those who want to help themselves"

I just wanted you to see the bigger picture too
So here's wishing you a merry festive reason - may you and Saur kid never be short, may you never be forced to do anything you may be ashamed of to survive or make ends meet, or to provide 4 the kid

Scott said...

Well I have to say that this post is kind of depressing. I think that the homeless are there for all kinds of reasons and they deserve to eat just like anyone else. The Bible quote is pretty tough. I can't imagine that a man like Jesus would tell someone that is not able to find a job that they don't deserve to eat... that is just me though.


The Lazy Iguana said...

What about the homeless who can not work because they are crazy, and do not take medication? Jails are full of these people - since Reagan did away with funding for mental hospitals to save money. Of course it did not save money, it just moved them from one institution to another.

But you are right. It is not wise to give money directly to homeless people. For one, how do you KNOW they are homeless? There are scammers out there. It is better to give to the charities that serve the homeless and working poor. Volunteer with a food bank or something. And about those charities! Be careful - some of them are scams too.

I do not know if this scam is in Tampa, but here in Miami there is a group called "the homeless voice". They panhandle in the streets, selling crappy newspapers. Sometimes they are just in the streets without any newspapers. They are driven around town in shiny new 15 passenger vans. The money is collected by the cult leader, who calls himself a "reverend" for tax reasons.

AVOID THE HOMELESS VOICE!! The money people give to "help" just goes to buy more vans and recruit more homeless people so that there is more money going in.

I would make it illegal to sell ANYTHING in the streets. And if I were in power, I would have the police watch street vendors / panhandlers to see what vehicle picks them up and drops them off. Run the tags. Figure out who the big players are. Then BUST THEM big time. Make them pay all that back sales tax. Fine them for not having an occupational license (even legal hot dog carts have some kind of license after all).

Streets are for CARS, not free places for you to conduct business.

Anonymous said...

So true. Words of wisdom if I ever heard any.

Senor Caiman said...


Your posts seem to come from your enlarged heart.

Excellent advice.

Fred said...

A TV station did a story some years ago that followed some of these "homeless" people. They were, in fact, living in pretty decent houses and out there just collecting money.

Not that it's the case in all instances, but giving money may not be the answer.

Ellen said...

I caught a segment on TV about a man who gave away $10,000 to a homeless person. He did it to see if throwing money at a situation would correct or help it. A large corporation was the actual sponsor, and this was a test.

The homeless man (who was thoroughly scrutinized to make sure he was a legit homeless person, and in relatively good health) told the research group that the money would indeed help him to get on his feet.... perhaps get an apartment, and launch an act of contributing to society.
As it turned out, he squandered the money, and was back in the same position within a few weeks.

Yet, I still will hand out a buck to someone if they appear desperate. What they do with the money is between them and their conscience.

Valerie - Riding Solo said...

I had to blog it. :)

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I am in a league with Em and Ellen. For more than fifty years, no one has asked me for financial help that didn't get it if I had it. (I am actually more reluctant to give to many organized charities when I discovered how many of them let less than fifty percent go to the purpose for which it was given.) This, in spite of knowledge that a guy I knew, writing a thesis in sociology went to New York
City and "spare changed" (Do you have any spare change? I am short of what I need for the subway, etc.") for three weeks. When he came back to Ohio, he confessed that it was hard to give it up. He was making more "spare changing" than he had made as a high school teacher in Ohio.

With me, I guess it's religion. "Are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same being, even God, for all the substance that we have, for both food and raiment?. . . . . . .
Now then, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith. . . .. O then how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have, on to another"

Don't look in your bibles for that, It's a Mormon thing (Book of) and I guess it is ingrained in me.

I certainly accept the internal wisdom in what you say, so I guess I give selfishly in a way, I just take that "love one another" (That is bible) very personally. I have spent a lot of time on the receiving end for past couple of months and only hope that I can do for others as well as others have done for me.