Friday, January 27, 2006


Yesterday, as I was driving down a main road I came to a corner where there is usually someone working. By working, I mean a homeless person with a sign - "Will Work For Food" "Anything Helps" "Homeless and Hungry".

Today's guy was young, bearded and barefoot. He was limping and would walk the row of cars with his sign, hopeful for a handout. His feet were so dirty and swollen it made me hurt.

He didn't have a dog with him. I don't know if you have noticed but a dog seems to be the accessory of choice for the begging homeless these days. I think it works too! I WANT THE DOG TO EAT!

Here's my do you feel about giving these people a handout from your car? A dollar? or your spare change? Are you worried the person will run off and spend your $1 on crack or booze? Do you give it and hope they eat something? Or, that maybe your gesture of kindness will move them to get off the street?

I do give them money every now and then. Personally, I feel that if I have spare change and want to give it, that change has then become a gift. When I give ANYONE a gift, I do not question the giver as to what they did with it. I believe a gift should be given freely, with no strings attached. And, quite honestly, I can't begrudge them that - if I was homeless I would probably be smoking cigarette butts and running off to buy booze with any money I could scrounge up too.

My church makes up little bags to give to the homeless. These are neat because they contain some non-perishable food, a juicebox drink, and usually some wet wipes or tissues.

I didn't give money to the dude yesterday. Why? I don't know. A few weeks ago there was another young guy there, shirtless, shoeless but with a wicked tattoo of Jesus on his belly. I gave him a $1. The guy in front me driving a truck had handed the Jesus guy a drink. When I gave him the $1, Jesus dude showed me the drink and said "this guy gave me this but I can't even tell what it is". It was frothy and white but didn't look like milk. We both laughed and I told him that I didn't know if I would drink it. Then the light turned green.


  • I don't like giving money, but I do like giving the non-perishable bags of food. Then I feel as if I am giving them what they say they want - food - without worrying that it will go to buy liquor/drugs or whatever.

    By Anonymous tlc, at 1/27/2006 5:52 AM  

  • I don't give out money on the street, partially out of not wanting to be an enabler and partially out of living in New York and having a safety-oriented policy of not opening my wallet on the street. I feel like I'm better off giving the money to a charity that helps the homeless, and I do.

    I occasionally give out food, if I have a protein bar handy, or occasionally a leftover slice of pizza if I'm on my way home from a lunch out. I posted this in Finslippy's comments a few days ago--I once offered to buy food for a guy who had a sign up requesting food outside a fast-food restaurant, and he wound up asking me if I would show my breasts to Howard Stern so he could get on the show. So, yeah, my preferred method of giving is writing a check to charity.

    By Blogger Arabella, at 1/27/2006 7:54 AM  

  • I agree about giving money to charity but I know some people are so whacky that they don't go anywhere for help.

    You passed up a chance to show your breasts to Howard Stern??? Arabella! Is there not enough french toast in the world to get you to do that either?

    By Blogger DebbieDoesLife, at 1/27/2006 7:58 AM  

  • I think it would be cool to have some food or say, a t-shirt or jacket that you were going to get rid of anyway in your car in case someone was 'working'. It frustrates me to think that someone without shoes would blow money on booze or drugs. I know it's an addiction but I don't want to encourage it. If they are cold or hungry then they should appreciate a shirt or food. I have had bad experiences with homeless people being aggressive and scary, especially when you don't give them money.

    By Blogger Mama D, at 1/27/2006 8:02 AM  

  • One night when I was walking down town eating a couple slices of pizza, I was approached by a bum who was "Looking for money for food." I offered him a dollar or my a slice of my pizza. He took the pizza. I was relieved. I'm not sure I would have given him either had he asked for the dollar.

    By Blogger Tink, at 1/27/2006 9:27 AM  

  • I can't stand the ones that are holding a sign saying something like "homeless vet". That's a load of CRAP. The VA has so many programs for those people that it's nuts- there is NO WAY they are on the street. My brother just preached about this on Sunday- never give money, but offer food/clothes/whatever. If they are real, they will take it. It's the crazies/fakers/crackaddicts that won't. The swollen feet though, would have seriously bothered me.

    By Anonymous Nilla, at 1/27/2006 9:27 AM  

  • I used to work in New York City, when I was single and carefree...Somewhere back in the 1800's I think.

    Anyway...We used to go out for lunch and we'd sit on the steps of a local church to eat on nice Spring days. One day, we all had our lunch and before we could eat them, a homeless man came up and started begging. One of my friends offered him her entire lunch, not yet eaten. I thought that was very generous.

    He took the sandwich and threw it on the ground, then started swearing obscenities at my friend. We ended up running for our lives down Fifth Avenue, with this madman behind us screaming he only wanted money, NOT FOOD!

    So I've since changed my attitude about helping people on the street. For my own safety, I don't.

    By Anonymous candy, at 1/27/2006 9:36 AM  

  • I usually listen to my instincts. I work downtown, so I'm always approached outside my building or walking down the street, and I know the people who "live" in certain areas and hang around specific building, so I give them something when I can. However, I don't give out money at intersections because of several reasons, one being it's dangerous for those people to be standing in the street and I don't like to encourage them.

    By Anonymous trish, at 1/27/2006 10:22 AM  

  • This topic was recently discussed in great detail on I appreciated hearing how people from a variety of nations reacted to the dilemma posed by beggars and/or homeless. It's a tough subject.

    In general, my policy is to financially and physically support groups that serve the homeless--shelters, soup kitchens, or even those that just deliver sleeping bags and tents to people where they are.

    On rare occasions, I've given food or money directly to someone. My thought is this: acts of kindness are never wasted and never in vain.

    By Anonymous V-Grrrl, at 1/27/2006 12:23 PM  

  • Like Arabella, I never give money on the street. But if I drive past someone near a grocery store or restaurant when I'm out and about, I will stop and buy them food and give it to them on my way back by. They always seem just as grateful to have the food as the money and I've only once had someone turn down the food.

    By Anonymous TB, at 1/27/2006 1:35 PM  

  • Once, on my way home, I saw a couple at the corner of the very busy intersection where I was stuck at the light. They were frantically asking the driver in each car for some little something they could apply to getting their car fixed (which was nowhere in sight - but it was a highway intersection, so I figured it was in a parking lot somewhere). The plea was that they were from out of town & broke down in the city - had no money, no friends nearby, etc. Having been in that very position myself, I gave them the few bucks I had on me - maybe $5 - for which they profusely thanked me & I went on my way, feeling I had done something good for someone who needed it.

    A month or so later - at the very same corner - there was the very same couple with the very same story. Kinda made me want to ask for my money back.

    I know what you mean about homeless with dogs, though - I, too, tend to feel a tad more compassion toward them than those who look like "career" homeless.

    But I draw the line at homeless with cell phones.

    By Blogger Melodious, at 1/27/2006 4:03 PM  

  • I like v-grrrl's thought. An act of kindness can not be wasted. But with that said, I hardly ever give to homeless people. Especially those stationed at high traffic areas. There was a spot near our old house, and I saw the shift change occur on more than one occasion, making me think it was more of a business than a real need.

    I remember once in college I (finally) got a decent grade on a physics exam and in a fit of largesse I gave one of the regular panhandlers a 20. His expression never changed and he never even made eye contact or acknowledged me in any way after that. Even though I saw him at least 4 times a day. Never again.

    By Blogger Mignon, at 1/27/2006 6:03 PM  

  • I have given money before. Sometimes I'm sure it was the right thing to do and sometimes I feel foolish. Once a guy met me coming out of a Barnes & Noble and he had an empty gas can in his hands. Said he had run out of gas and needed money. I thought he was probably lying. I gave him about $2 in change. He acted like had spit on him and walked away. Did he want me to fill the damned tank for him? Give him a ride? I guess he was a liar and I felt stupid...and angry that he felt he had the right to be mad at me.

    By Blogger wordgirl, at 1/27/2006 6:37 PM  

  • As a mother of three I almost always have snacks and beverages in my car. I have been known to pass a bag of pretzels or a bottle of water to someone who looks like he needs it more than we do.

    By Anonymous clickmom, at 1/27/2006 7:17 PM  

  • Like Candy, I have had the experience in Los Angeles of offering food to the homeless, and they reject the offer. One was standing outside of KFC and I told him I would go inside to get him something, and he said no, just wanted the change. I'll always offer in the future, but it still baffles me when the beggar refuses the food.

    By Blogger Melanhead, at 1/27/2006 8:48 PM  

  • it's complicated for me. sometimes i'm in the mood that i can sympathize with somebody who just wants a drink.

    but when my mind's right, i generally follow the direction my priest gave me a while back, as someone who works downtown in the city.

    through my church we give a large portion to a great charity that helps these people. like ... REALLY helps them. the leader of the place knows all the names of the crackheads and all and seeks them out.

    i tell them that i help keep that place afloat and they should cruise down there. they usually just nod. not ask. they know where it is, but don't want real help.

    either way, i agree. if i give it, it's a gift.


    By Blogger eric, at 1/27/2006 9:35 PM  

  • I don't give money to them -- very often -- I'll admit. I do sometimes give them drinks (In cans, identifiable) I like your church's idea of the gift bags.

    When I was in college, I completed a semester-long research project on those "homeless" folks begging for bucks at corners. It was enlightening and disturbing, though I realize there's exceptions and some people truly are there out of need and not life choices. So I do feel guilty when I don't give them money. On the rare occasion when I do, I realize that it might go to booze or drugs. But it's a gift. Doesn't matter -- there I agree.

    By Blogger CISSY, at 1/28/2006 9:45 AM  

  • Sometimes I give them money, but more often, I don't. One time Mark offered a guy looking for food some strawberries we had just picked up at a fruit stand and the guy turned them down!

    By Blogger Renee, at 1/28/2006 8:13 PM  

  • A lot of times I give them money. I figure I have it a lot better than they do so I should probably share my blessings (regardless of what they intend to spend it on) or said blessings might get taken away for the purpose of cosmic balancing or some such crap. It's totally self-serving and unaltruistic. I just have this semi-irrational fear of accruing bad karma. I'm a beggar's wet dream, it would seem *sigh*

    By Blogger IzzyMom, at 1/28/2006 8:29 PM  

  • I live in a very small town where we literally don't have homeless people (or any that I see anyway), so this isn't something I'm faced with very often. But when I do see someone somewhere else, sure I'll give them a few bucks. If they want to spend it on cigarettes or booze (and I wouldn't blame them), then more power to 'em. Like several others have said, a gift is a gift and I'll feel good about myself regardless of what the recipient decides to do with it.

    By Blogger Alien, at 1/28/2006 10:19 PM  

  • Since I moved to Phoenix I see more homeless people. The especially like the corner near my work. I ususally do not give them money. I don't think it is wrong to give them money, I just usually don't have cash. I have given money in the past and I always felt good about doing a kindness.

    By Blogger Ditsy Chick, at 1/28/2006 10:26 PM  

  • I dealt with this when i lived in CA. I talked with my now husband about it and this is what he had to say:

    "We will not be held accountable for what he/she did with that money/handout, but we will be held accountable for wether we went out of our way to help."

    It changed my whole outlook on helping the many homless i came by everyday. If its handing out a meal, or just handing somone some money - I was soooo relieved to feel the "yeah, but hes gonna spend it on getting drunk" weight lift from my shoulders.

    I hope this helped....

    By Anonymous Carol, at 1/29/2006 2:30 AM  

  • There was a guy who used to "work" the entrance to the grocery store I frequent. I went in, did my shopping, and picked up a whole roasted chicken, a bag of rolls, a large container of potato salad, and a 2-liter soft drink. On my way out of the lot, I rolled down my car window to hand him the meal in a bag.

    He took it from me, looked inside, and just as the light changed to green and I was about to pull away, he spit.

    Right into my still open window.

    I give to shelters, etc. But I sorta stopped taking the more direct route after that...

    By Anonymous Jennifer, at 1/29/2006 4:34 PM  

  • I read all of the comments and was truly amazed that so many people give so much! My hard-core attitude is prety much "Get a job!" (Although I never say that.)I am aware that many are too old, or too disabled....but there are others, usually the ones working the roads, who are not. I would never, ever give cigarettes or booze. I have given food, which was received reluctantly. My daughter--a waitress--paid for a few meals, until the guys helped themselves to three extra meals, without paying, that were in take-out for a paying customer.

    Having said all those mean, cruel things, I really agree that a gift given is given, and would not ask what was done with it.

    It never occurred to me to give soda--will carry a can or two for that purpose this summer.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/30/2006 10:35 AM  

  • My gift to someone is between me and my God. What someone does with a gift is between him and his God. One doesn't have anything to do with the other.

    By Blogger Shrinking Violet, at 1/30/2006 8:10 PM  

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