I always hear mixed responses to whether you should give homeless people money on the street. Some say it only fuels addiction. So what is the best way in your day to day life to help the homeless?
My answer was always the same “It’s your choice, but have the decency to look someone in the eye and acknowledge them.” That sounds simple, but the fact is, many people who are on the street are routinely ignored, sworn at, harassed, robbed and assaulted. Having someone look them in the eye and recognise them as a person can be very affirming.
Personally, I don’t give money frequently, but I do on occasion. Working in a big urban environment means that a walk could result in several encounters with people who are on the streets sleeping rough. I also prefer not to pull my wallet out in the middle of the street not for fear but rather of an opportunistic thief so it will also depend if I have change in my pocket.
its really is a choice that you need to make for yourself. However, if you choose to give someone money, what that money gets spent on is no longer in your control. When I give a waiter/waitress a tip at a restaurant I don’t get to dictate that they should only buy food or pay for housing with it. The money is theirs and the spending choice is theirs.
If you’re worried about the money going to alcohol or drugs there are a few options:
Give the money to an organisation working with people experiencing homelessness.
Buy a street newspaper such as the ‘Big Issue’
Buy a small gift card – i.e. for a local coffee shop or fast food restaurant.
Use the money to donate food to a food bank.
Buying food instead of giving money is something that a lot of people ask about and it is going to come down to choice for the person on the street again. I’m the world’s pickiest eater; I would have a hard time trusting that the food someone hands me on the street is safe, edible and something I will like. Most of us like to have the ability to choose what we want to eat and when we want to eat it. Giving someone a coffee instead of cash may be your preference, but if it’s the fifth coffee they’ve been handed in 20 minutes, they may well refuse it.
One thing I hope you get from this post is its down to you but please acknowledge a homeless person because there human just like us and some of the most vulnerable people in the UK today.