“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:
- If someone needs food, give them food. Not a gift card, not cash, just food. Dine with them in a restaurant, buy them a sandwich, either way. (Please give them new food. I know it sounds weird -like one of those things that shouldn't have to be said. But leftovers are not the gift you think. Give them brand new, never been touched food. Just a tip.)
- If they need gas for their car, bring them to the gas station, have them fill their tank, and then you pay the bill.
- You could also have a pre-made package ready to give them. (This works great for giving at intersections) Whether it’s a ‘Keep Warm’ kit, or a portable snack type kit, or simply a packet of soup in a cup, these are great practical ways to help in a cashless way.
What are some other cashless ways you have seen people give to those who need?