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Friday, October 24, 2008

To Help.....Or Not To Help?

What do you do when you see a homeless person panhandling for money? Do you give them money? Do you want to but are afraid they will use it on drugs or alcohol rather than food?

This was a conversation that took place on a message board I frequent the other day. The answers varied. Some always give money, some never do, some do sometimes, and there were many who had creative ways to help without handing over cash. Some of these are ideas I have used myself in the past when I worked downtown where there were many homeless men and women:

Give gift card or gift certificates for local restaurants.

Give gift cards or certificates for local groceries.

Keep some non-perishables in your car, brief case, bag, hand out.

Keep cards of local shelters and food pantries on hand to pass out to the needy.

One of my favorites; offer to go with them for a meal! Sometimes a person just wants to know they are valued and cared for and would love to talk with someone who will listen and not judge.

While it is true some people are on the streets by choice( I personally know a few!) there are many who aren't. It may be hard to tell who is who without knowing them. Sometimes a person may be where they are due to being so mentally ill without proper treatment that they just aren't capable of making proper life choices. Some may have lost their homes and or families due to a tragedy in their lives. Some may be substance abusers and maybe you feel they don't deserve our help or sympathy, and I have to admit this is the group I have the hardest time with, but truth be told substance abuse does become a brain disorder at some point leaving the victim not always able to make proper choices just like the mentally ill.

I don't feel it is my job to judge who deserves help and who doesn't. It's not my place to ask the person what placed them in this situation. It is my job to just offer love, compassion and concrete help.

There are other ways to help the more needy of the homeless. Carry extra jackets, sweaters, blankets that you'd otherwise donate and pass them out on cold nights(or days for that matter) You'd be surprised how grateful the recipient may be! Just visit with them, talk with them, show them they matter!

There is much you can do without putting yourself in harms way or giving money that could potentially be misused. I like to live by the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself! Can't go too wrong following that advice!

1 comment:

William Cooney said...

Outstanding post! You've given me much to think about. I am also inclined to help but worry about misuse of it when it is given in the form of money.

I know your post wasn't about macro solutions to the problem of the homeless, but I still can't help but wonder why, as a society, we haven't constructed a more comprehensive approach to this situation.

Until such time, you're right - we can do a little something to ease suffering along the way. I love the ideas you mention.