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"Homeless. Need help/work"

post #1 of 74
Thread Starter 
When you are driving out of a parking lot (e.g. grocery store) and you see somebody holding this or a similar sign, what is the best response?

Normally I drive by : but I'm morally torn about the matter. For some reason, these people are usually standing or sitting on the right side of my car, which makes it difficult to hand anything to them or engage them or hand something to them. Then there's the issue of whether or not to engage them and, if so, how.

Hand them food? Bus tokens? Job announcements? Perhaps something more indirect, like financial or in-kind support for the local shelter?

This is not a thread to debate the merits of sign-holding or "begging." (Where I used to live, one guy made the front page of the local paper with his sign: "Why lie? I need a beer!" ) I just feel a duty as a citizen and a human being to do something, but I just don't know what. I'd like to hear from people who feel the same way and have ideas.

What I am wondering is...is there an appropriate response that is compassionate, productive, and street-smart?
post #2 of 74
I'm not sure what the "correct" answer is, but I there is a very large homeless population in our area and I keep some food in my car for just this reason - granola bars and the like that won't go bad and will fill their tummy for a bit. Less direct, but once a month we go to the grocery and set aside a certain amount to spend and put it right into the food bank box at the store. This is really rewarding for the kids too - they love picking out food they think other people will enjoy and it's such a good lesson. I hope you can find a solution that feels right to you!
post #3 of 74
a good friend always said, "are you hungry? Come with me, Ill buy you a meal"

he would buy them food, talk with them, see if he could help.

Ive tried this several times. Ive only had two or three people accept food.

I think carrying food or even a card with the number to the local food bank might help.
post #4 of 74
I drove past a man holding a sign once that read "hungry - anything will help." I had just packed my trunk full of groceries. I went home, made him 2 turkey sandwiches, and packed it up in a bag with some fruit and had my husband drive it back to the guy.

On a regular basis, I'm not sure what the best approach is. I think a PP here mentioned having non-perishables handy for the occasion...sounds like a good idea to me.
post #5 of 74
I made some peanut butter sandwiches once for some homeless guys because I liked their sign: "Hungry Hungry Hobos"

OP, I think about this a lot. I never know what to say and I don't want to stare but I don't want to just look away either. I want to help but I don't know how or if the person is dangerous or what. I am one of those people that, even though I am pretty sure it's going to be spent on alcohol or worse, still can't help but give change to beggars.
post #6 of 74
Food is a good idea. I will not ever give money, because it is more than likely to be used for various vices, rather then true needs.
post #7 of 74
we usually buy a meal from a takeaway & a large bottle of water. I met some really nice homeless people, with very sad stories. one man i remember , he had his arm broken by teenagers & his dog taken away. luckily the dog found his way back.
post #8 of 74
It just depends I guess. There've been a lot of articles on "fake" homeless people in the area - like the guy who used to stand outside the mall and then rode the bus back home to his extremely nice house and family with all his tax free "earnings". A friend used to offer job applications to some, trying to help out, and most often they cussed her out (though not always), so it's hard to know who really needs the help and who's scamming kwim? However, in the summer I do try to keep bottled water on hand. Scamming or not everyone is susceptible to heat stroke. If it's someone I see on a regular basis and it seems like they truely are down on their luck, then if I'm working I'll pack an extra lunch in the morning and pass it along while I drive in to work. I may give them up to $5 if I have it as well, heaven knows $5 has made a huge difference for me at times in the past when things were desperate! I figure I can't control what another person does, but I try not to let the "what-if's" of their actions change who I am.
post #9 of 74
I give food if I have it - granola bar or any snacks I might have on me for ds & I. I never give money and that goes back to a story back when I was in high school.

There used to always be beggers at the exit of a popular mall where I grew up. There was one guy who was almost always out there with a sign that said "Will work for food" - my friend's Dad gave him a business card and said "If you call this number, I will give you a job and pay you well"

The guy never called and the next time they were at the mall, he was out there begging. My friend's Dad asked why he had never called to get a job - and the beggar was honest - He said he made more money out there begging than he would ever make in another job.

So I give food - at least that way if they are really hungry, I'm helping. I donate money through other sources that help the homeless, but I don't directly give it to people on the street.
post #10 of 74
My husband carries a bunch of grocery store gift cards in his wallet to give, but we'll give food, money, whatever, if we think it will help. We both have this philosophy that it's really not our job to judge what they choose to do with what we give. A gift is a gift, you know? So you put it out there and hope for the best.

Now, when he gives something with the church's money (he's a pastor) he needs to be careful because that's not his own money, it's the churches.
post #11 of 74
I don't pay them any mind. I used to bum them cigarettes and chat, tell them where the shelters are or which churches have soup kitchens. No one needs money, they need food, shelter, clothing etc, so I never give money, and I gave food once and he just left it and it got ran over Obviously wasn't that hungry.

there are better ways to meet your needs then panhandling, and most of them probably make more money then me anyways.
post #12 of 74
My husband is out in the field all day so he carries some food and lots of water with him to give to these people in need (we live in the desert so during the summer water is very very important).

I believe fully that regardless of those stories we hear meant to clear our conscience about them making more money or just exploiting us or whatever else that it doesn't matter because there are still soooo many more in need. If I found out tomorrow all the food and water we have given was only truly needed by one person we gave it to I'd be fine with it because that one person really needed it.

I know that the shelters can't always help them all.
post #13 of 74
I'm pretty cynical about our local "workers". I know for a fact that they are most likely addicted and or mentally ill. I also know for the most part that they don't want food, or company- just cash.

I use to stop and offer food/money, or ask them if they needed a particular kind of help- like a ride, or help finding resources, but our guys (I've never seen a woman out there) are doing it as a job.

They are panhandling. They don't want housing, help or fluff. They want cash donations.

So I personally would rather donate to a food pantry, or a women's shelter or any shelter. I think that provides more help in the long run.

I hate that we have mentally ill, veterans and addicts on the streets, but sadly even when offered help sometimes it just doesn't work.

I want to help those that want help. I don't want anyone turned away at a food bank, or someone with small kids to get turned away from a warm bed.

I guess that sounds heartless, but I don't think giving a homeless alcoholic beer money is helping anyone.

*We have given large sums of money to people broke down on the road with kids, and I think a couple of times it was a scam, but I don't regret that. I can't drive by children and not do something.
post #14 of 74
Simple solution- don't give money.

I find it heartbreaking that so many allow a few abusing other's charity to mandate what we do for those in need as a whole. It's like the argument that there are people on public assistance who are abusing the system so the whole system needs to go. No not the solution at all. Just think of all those who are in need and who are receiving help.

I will remind everyone again- not all shelters and food banks can help all those in need. People are turned away at an alarming rate. Panhandling is often the last resort.
post #15 of 74
Originally Posted by magstphil View Post
I will remind everyone again- not all shelters and food banks can help all those in need. People are turned away at an alarming rate. Panhandling is often the last resort.
I've heard stories many times of people who can't negotiate social services because they don't have the right paperwork, or a ride, or a fridge to keep the food fresh.
post #16 of 74
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
I've heard stories many times of people who can't negotiate social services because they don't have the right paperwork, or a ride, or a fridge to keep the food fresh.
Not only that, it takes time to be approved. We got WIC right away, but they have 45 days to approve food stamps and Medicaid.
post #17 of 74
Thank you so much for this thread.

I have been struggling with this issue for awhile now. I hadn't given anything before because I never have cash on me anyway - but I always felt bad about it and about the example I am setting for my little guys. That whole "treat others as you would want to be treated" I say at least weekly looks a lot like lip service when I'm not helping those asking for help.

Beginning tomorrow I am keeping a box of granola bars and a small cooler with water in it in my car at all times.

You guys have inspired me.
post #18 of 74
That's a wonderful idea!

One Advent, we made a bunch of little "kits" to keep in the car and give away-- granola bar, 5 bucks, a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, stuff like that, all tucked into a pair of clean warm socks, and we gave those away as needed.
post #19 of 74
The last time I saw someone with a sign looking for help, we were on our way to the grocery store, so I bought an extra bag of groceries. Things that were pretty sturdy, healthful, non perishable, easy to pack. Travel-weight bread, peanut butter (and a couple plastic knives from the deli area), jam, bananas. I handed the bag out the window on our way back, and the person seemed really happy to get it.
post #20 of 74
Originally Posted by annettemarie View Post
We both have this philosophy that it's really not our job to judge what they choose to do with what we give. A gift is a gift, you know? So you put it out there and hope for the best.
This is us too.

Concerning Food Stamps, if a person is homeless they are normally eligible for a special type of Food Stamps that is accepted at restaurants. Also, concerning the 45 day wait, I can speak from personal experience that if your financial situation is dire enough, you are entitled to expedited approval, i.e. you will have assistance in >7 days. Concerning families in need, a person is generally eligible for welfare (cash) assistance if there is no employed adult in the household.

There is a man whose usual haunts are near our place- we had seen him panhandling at several different intersections- we always felt sorry for the guy. One day we saw him walking across our street... talking on a cell phone! Apparently he is a neighbor of ours. :

Of course, this doesn't alter our philosophy, but it is hard to swallow. People like the man I just described are preying on people's emotions (sympathy) and generosity. It's a sad world out there.
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