A man shivered outside a local strip mall. It was cold and dark, and as I entered the building, I could not imagine why on earth he stayed outside. There was plenty of space inside. When I came back out a few minutes later, he approached me.
“Would you have some money to spare so I can get something to eat?”
“Oh, sure.” I said, heading back toward the door to the strip mall café, “I’d gladly buy you some food.”
Once inside, he told me he was actually meeting a friend at another restaurant. He just wanted the cash.
When someone who appears to be destitute comes up and asks for money, what do you do? It’s a tough question. And a lot of the time, we don’t think about our answer until we’re face to face with it.
But the answer is actually really simple: Don’t give them cash.
It’s something we want to shout from the rooftops and through megaphones sometimes. “DON’T GIVE THEM CASH!!!”
It might sound harsh, but it really is best – for them. Often times, those who are in the position of being homeless are there as a result of poor choices or slavery to addictions. In these circumstances, cash does not feed them the way you think. That $10 bill (or even a gift card!) will likely go toward alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes. Basically, giving cash is not helping, it’s enabling. Industry volunteers can tell story after story of how true this is.
Should we not help then, you ask? Of course! Just help wisely. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think.
Here are a few ideas of what to give instead:
What are some other cashless ways you have seen people give to those who need?