1. I was recently in a chic area of downtown Chicago (think the Drake hotel, Bloomingdale's, Magnificent Mile) and had forgotten just how many people there were out there begging for change. How many of you ante up? I've been known to do it on occasion despite all the warnings that it's only going for drugs or alcohol. During a particularly cold winter night I saw a man begging for money at a Wendy's drive thru. I felt guilty after I got my value meal de jour and gave him my food after I went through the drive through.

    It just seems so wild in a disgustingly decadent area of town to see the disparity of our socioeconomic backgrounds. Albeit there are some downright low-lifes in all walks of life.

    So what do you do, give in or walk away?
  2. 38 Comments

  3. by   karenG
    I must admit I buy the Big Issue when I can, but other than that, nope dont give. I support Oxfam and help the aged. we have a big problem (is that the right term to use?) on the tubes with middle eastern refugees who beg- usually women with children in tow. they go from carriage to carriage. mind you they look well fed and well clothed and I know that they get support from the state- in some cases more than some of my elderly patients. so what do I do? its a bit of sore topic where I live!!!

  4. by   twarlik
    If I have money in my pocket, I always give them something. I get tired of hearing people who don't give say that "it's only going towards alcohol" or "I give to my local charity." Who cares if they're buying beer with the money. They have nothing. Why shouldn't they have a beer? And just because you give to your local charity doesn't mean that it's acceptable to step over a homeless person on the way into Neiman Marcus. A dollar means nothing to most of us, yet so many can't even bring themselves to part with it.
    Try to imagine yourself in a similar situation. You don't know how they got where they are. How many of us are only a few paychecks away from being homeless ourselves? We tend to assume that they must have done something really dumb to get where they are, but in many cases it was just a lot of unfortunate circumstances.

    Ok, I'm done. This is a big issue with me, so I apologize for the rant.

  5. by   karenG

    come to the evenings the streets are full of homeless people. I have worked with the homeless. my problem is I dont have that much spare cash and who do I decide to give my money to? at least if I buy the big issue (produced and sold by the homeless- the vendor gets the profit) and give to recognised charities I know my money is going somewhere useful. my dad works in the city of london at LLoyds.....and every morning buys breakfast for a little old lady who begs at liverpool station. we do our bit but its a huge problem here and no one seems to come up with any answers.

    I guess we all do what we can when we can.

  6. by   twarlik
    If you do what you can, when you can, then that's all that matters. I just know so many people who do nothing and think that it's alright. It's a complicated issue. Wish there were easier answers...
  7. by   H ynnoD
    I give if I have it.Who am I to judge another person weather they really need it or not.God is good to me and a few dollars here are there is'nt going to break me.I adopted a little girl in India that I send 20 bucks a month to help support.I use to spend that everyday on beer when I drank.
  8. by   nowplayingEDRN
    I do not give but rather offer to take them into the coffee shop and buy them a cuppa or a sandwhich....I do not want them to take the money and buy smokes or alcohol.....they need the food and healthful beverage more than the unhealthy items.
  9. by   Tilleycs
    I've honestly gone back and forth over this for years. I agree with offering to buy them food instead of just giving them cash - not only from not wanting it to go to alcohol/drugs, but if they do have problems with alcohol/drugs, you don't want to enable them.

    I don't give money to the people who stand in the busy intersections in my area. Some of them have been interviewed by local reporters, and some of them make good money per hour doing that, and they don't have to pay taxes on it.

    From a Christian perspective, though, I DO think we need to help the poor. We don't want to give people money who would waste it, but what about the money that God has allowed ME to make (or be given) that I have wasted on things HE doesn't approve of? You don't want to enable people, but you also can't make choices for them, either.

    Case in point: last Saturday I helped a branch of the NC Food Bank move from one warehouse to the other. I overheard a woman in a car nearby talking on a cellphone to someone and say that she couldn't get food for her kids (they were in the car with her) because she had to put gas in the car.

    I had some extra cash with me (which I hardly ever have - I rarely have cash with me), so I told her I overheard saying that she didn't have money to buy food for her kids, and I had some extra money, and I wanted to give it to her. She was smoking, though, so I couldn't help but wonder if she would buy cigarettes with some of it. I hoped not, but that was her choice. My choice was whether to share the money. I just hope she was being honest and used it to take care of her kids.

    So, all that to say, I agree - there are no quick and easy answers. Sorry for the long post.
  10. by   Mkue
    Giving food or drink instead of money sounds like a good idea
  11. by   NICU_Nurse
    We have a lot of homeless people/panhandlers in this area, and I thought it was interesting to find out during my psych rotation in school that a large majority of them are either people with untreated mental illness, such as schizophrenia, or younger kids or teenagers who have run away from home due to various circumstances (often sexual or physical abuse or neglect).

    When you imagine how an untreated schizophrenic's life can be, how difficult and unbearable to them it is, how confusing and frustrating, how they are looked down upon by much of society or how many people couldn't be bothered with trying to help them learn how to live thier lives in a manageable way...or if you consider a 14 year old boy being beaten to hell by his mother's current boyfriend or a 16 year old girl being molested and raped by her father....and then consider how neither the children nor the mentally ill have the capability and/or resilience to cope with these situations in a healthy or effective way- well, I happily fork over my dollars, or buy them food, or place a blanket over a sleeping body under the overpass during winter, or whatever.

    IMO, I'd want to get high and forget it all, too, if I were in their shoes.

    The world is harsh and cruel to many; it's not my place to judge how they use my money if I am freely offering it to them. I don't feel that our paths would have crossed if there weren't a reason, either for me to assist them in whatever meager way I could, or for them to teach me compassion and empathy. Either way, I do it and I'm happy to do it and will continue to do it.

    If someone is so needy that the only way they feel they can make a "living" for themselves is by panhandling, well, that's a sad situation and I am a very lucky person with many blessings, many gifts that I am more than willing to share, even if it means doing without myself.

    I give what and when I am able to, and don't when I am not. It's as simple as that, for me. I don't have bottomless pockets or resources, but I know that, at least in this city, there are few resources available to help any of those people have a quality of life remotely near my own, even with all of its drawbacks and difficulties (struggle is nothing new to myself or my husband).

    You know, I was on a break one night and was sitting in a courtyard having a cigarette and was approached by a woman who was waiting to be seen in the ER. We started talking, and this woman was extremely bright, but obviously had some mental health issues and told me that she'd moved from Ireland to our area a few years ago with her husband. He became addicted to heroin and overdosed, and she was soon homeless in a strange country. She had attempted to work but was unable to hold a job because of various health issues (mental and physical) and our local system is not great when it comes to affordable healthcare or interventions. She was as sweet as pie, but had obviously suffered a very difficult life. I was asking her where she stayed at night (this was in January) and she said that the shelters let them stay usually for, say, ten days a year. She could use them at once, or bounce around from shelter to shelter, but when the ten days were up, she couldn't return until the next year. She said that to get vouchers to stay at the shelter, she had to travel to various churches in the city, be counseled, and get a small meal (sandwich, fruit, drink or the like) and maybe some "new" clothes, and then she had to travel across town to the shelter she would be staying at that night. The shelters didn't allow women to enter before six PM, so until then she had to find a way to occupy herself. She also told me that in the shelters other women would beat each other up during the night, and people had stolen her shoes, her bag, and her glasses!!! from her while she was sleeping.

    Now imagine that. A homeless person with no transportation having to travel all over town each day to ensure that they have a place to sleep for one single night. How does one sleep with the fear of being physically harmed? Or having your meager possessions stolen from you if you dare close your eyes and actually rest? How do they expect for people to travel across the city (large city) to get a voucher, then across again to the shelter? Just imagine yourself trying to do that. Every day. I know I did.

    There is a large men's shelter here in a horrible part of town. Roughly 300 men call this place home. They installed portable toilets outside so the men wouldn't have to urinate and defecate on the street. This was all part of the city's "cleaning up" effort, and was actually a nice thing for many of these men- to be able to use the bathroom in peace and have a huge shelter (it used to be a wharehouse) to call home. Some developers decided that the area was ripe for renovation, and bought up a whole bunch of the surrounding wharehouses and made luxury condominiums out of them. The rent STARTS at $1000+ a night for a small studio, $1200+ for a tiny one bedroom, etc. There is an Aveda spa and some high end boutiques built into the bottoms of the wharehouses, as well as a Starbucks, etc. Right in the middle is this men's shelter. Well, what do you think happened? Residents of the condos began complaining that they could see the homeless men lined up to use the bathroom out of their windows and from their balconies, and the paper ran a big story on it. The residents signed a petition to have the shelter moved from the now residential, formerly blighted, area and out of their sight. They claimed that the shelter was an eyesore and that it was devaluing their neighborhood. The city is still attempting to solve this problem, and the residents are still complaining, and the shelter has had to install a huge fence to block the shelter from street view and was last said to have been ordered to remove the portable toilets permanantly until further action can be taken.

    It is precisely these types of situations that will continue to motivate me to give what I can and continue to make me ill at the thought of how selfish and short-sighted some people can be.
  12. by   jnette
    Originally posted by twarlik
    Try to imagine yourself in a similar situation. You don't know how they got where they are. How many of us are only a few paychecks away from being homeless ourselves? We tend to assume that they must have done something really dumb to get where they are, but in many cases it was just a lot of unfortunate circumstances.

    Agree with you there, my friend.
    Again, and as always... I say never judge, prejudge, or assume anything. We don't know where these ppl have been.. what hell they came from.. why they are in the circumstances they find themselves in.

    I know we can't take the world on our shoulders, nor can we help ALL, and many must learn to help themselves. HOWEVER... you just might be an angel to someone on that particular day.. an answer to prayer, the only meal she/he may have had in days... perhaps even a phonecall .. ever been so broke you didn't have enough money to make a phonecall? Anybody ever dig in a dumpster for food? Sleep in a dumpster to get out of the pouring rain?

    Some ppl just need a stepping stone to get the help they need to help themselves. You just might be that person who makes the difference on that particular day. And if not... well... perhaps another time, another person. Miracles happen, and you just might be the one to make it happen in someone's life.

    And for smokers, this is not a time to expect them to quit. They can quit when their life becomes more stable. For a man/woman who's jonesing for that morning drink.. they NEED that drink. Let them detox where it's safe and supervised. Who am I to tell this stranger what he/she needs at this time?

    Help and giving come from the heart.. if one is going to worry about what one does with what we give, there's no need to give at all.
    When I give, I ask God to bless it.. it's out of my hands now, and I leave it in His... He knows better than I how to help this person.
  13. by   BadBird
    My husband was going to lunch at a fast food restaurant, he gave a homeless man a $5.00 bill on his way in, as Chuck ate his lunch he watched the homeless man EAT the $5.00 bill, when he told me it made me feel so sad. I wonder how many veterans and mentally ill are out there not knowing where their next meal will come from. This homeless man always hung out on a certain street, Chuck usually bought him lunch about once a week after that, he would just order 2 of whatever he wanted and when he left he handed the food to the man, my hubby told me the homeless man always dumped the food onto the dirty sidewalk and then ate it. This seems so sad to me.
  14. by   funnygirl_rn
    Badbird...that was a sad story, but so great of your husband to continue.

    I do buy someone food & I also give money. I feel bad walking by someone who is begging, because I am unsure of their circumstances as someone above posted. I will also give a dog or cat food as well.

    When my husband & I lived in Turkey in a tiny rural village, we bought food for some of the poorer locals & we also gave out dog biscuits & our left-overs to some of those dogs that lived in our alley. The dogs looked like they had AIDS...they were so skinny. It made me so sad.