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Is there a time limit on how long you give money to the homeless?

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
I've been in school for four years. For four years we've had the same homeless people, with the same story, asking for the same thing.

Bus Lady: Every day, same spot asking for bus fare to get to Pontiac (about a two hour bus ride from here.)

Soup guy: Again, same area, asking for fifty more cent to get a cup of soup. It seems like he always almost has enough

Coat Lady: Bunches of coats, regardless of the season. She asks for food and cigarettes, but rarely money.

Subway Guy: Stands outside of Subway asking for five dollars to buy a foot long.

Eighty Cent guy: He wants eighty cent. Pretty consistent about that amount, too.

I feel bad for them. I couldn't imagine living like that and thank God that I don't have to, but seriously, how long does it take before I shouldn't give them my money. I try to offer food, which people usually take and eat (with the exception of the lady who took my fresh, hot, buttery bagel, thanked me profusely, and shoved it down between the bus seats), or directions to the (many) churches and homeless shelters in a six square block area.

I'm trying to be sympathetic. We all have hard times, but how long do I have to feel sorry?
post #2 of 36
Sure there's a limit. The moment it doesn't feel right to me. I give if I can do it and not feel exploited and if I want to. It's that simple. If I don't I at least look them in the eye and say no, or nod at them. My one rule, for myself, is that I will acknowledge someone who speaks to me, asks me for something... even if I choose not to give it to them.
post #3 of 36
I don't feel sorry for people who lie. If they were legitimately sympathetic, they wouldn't lie to me to play on my sympathies.

Once I was at a mall, eating in the food court, and this guy came up and had a story about his car broke down and he needed bus fare to get to... somewhere, don't remember where, but he said where it was... and all he'd managed to get from everyone was a quarter (which he displayed... what, earnest money?)

So, I pulled out a token for the bus system in the area. I explained to him that the token plus the quarter would get him boarded with an interagency transfer to another bus that would get him to his destination. I told him exactly which buses to use and where to catch them.

An hour later, he tried to get me with the same story.

I don't give people money. Well, unless they have a really awesome sign or something. Like, I did give a dollar to the guy sitting on the curb holding a cardboard sign in his lap that said "I have to hold this sign to hide my erection." It was in a heavily-trafficked outdoor mall area, so it wasn't creepy, just hilarious. Another time I think I gave a quarter to a guy whose sign said "Homeless 25 cents please." It struck me as really funny, like, "Just 25 cents puts a homeless person on YOUR corner all afternoon!"

If the sign says "God bless" I do nothing. When I do something, it's because I believe in people, not to rack up points with the great beyond.

I have bought people lunch a bunch of times. Once a guy was begging in a strip mall. One of those enthusiastic, outgoing, but clearly homeless guys. Well-spoken, sense of humor, all that. I told him I had no cash on me, I'm sorry, and went to get my lunch. I also ordered a combo for him, and paid for it all on my credit card. As I walked back by, he held his hands out toward my food and jokingly said, "Thank you!" I said, "No, *this* one's yours" and held out the bag in my other hand. His whole demeanor changed; he was actually kind of flustered I think, but was chowing down before I was past him. ;-)

That's far from the only time, but it was one of the more fun ones.

My mom always said, "I don't have enough money to let someone else decide how it's spent." I agree with that. So I will buy food, but I won't give cash. And I have no sympathy left for people with "a story."
post #4 of 36
yes, there are limits. but, they'll vary for everyone.
post #5 of 36
I'm a huge cynic. That's why I give donations to homeless shelters, food pantries, etc. If people need help, they should get it, but they're selling you a story, my friend. They're using the money to buy booze or drugs. I don't need to finance that. Sure, it's a low-level con, and if it's a good story, you might be OK with financing creativity. But do know that it's a story.

You could find out a bit more about the shelters/day centers in your area. Some require people to be sober when using their services, others don't. You can give to whichever one you feel will do the most good for the people who are panhandling.
post #6 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post
I'm a huge cynic. That's why I give donations to homeless shelters, food pantries, etc. If people need help, they should get it, but they're selling you a story, my friend. They're using the money to buy booze or drugs. I don't need to finance that. Sure, it's a low-level con, and if it's a good story, you might be OK with financing creativity. But do know that it's a story.
:

I agree with this, my sister and BIL used to work at a homeless shelter as well. What she says sadly IS generally the case. And, they can make a whole lots of $$$ for booze or drugs panhandling.
post #7 of 36
When I was working in the city I would offer them a clean blanket or some of my lunch,Take it or leave it. I worked for a large ambulance company so it was easy to get blankies. And I always had extra food. I don't give money.
post #8 of 36
I was homeless at one time and I didn't beg on the streets. There are ways of getting proper help.

Having said that, I do help people from time to time if I can spare it.
post #9 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ironica View Post
I have bought people lunch a bunch of times. Once a guy was begging in a strip mall. One of those enthusiastic, outgoing, but clearly homeless guys. Well-spoken, sense of humor, all that. I told him I had no cash on me, I'm sorry, and went to get my lunch. I also ordered a combo for him, and paid for it all on my credit card. As I walked back by, he held his hands out toward my food and jokingly said, "Thank you!" I said, "No, *this* one's yours" and held out the bag in my other hand. His whole demeanor changed; he was actually kind of flustered I think, but was chowing down before I was past him. ;-)

That's far from the only time, but it was one of the more fun ones.
That story is awesome.

With the bus token guy, I would've loudly asked "what you already messed up taking the bus? I just gave you a token an hour ago, and directions, what is wrong with..." as he retreated to an area where the marks hadn't overheard that he was full of it.
post #10 of 36
I gave money to the early 20-something guy with a sign saying, "I'm not going to lie, I want some pot." Other than that I don't give money to panhandlers. I will give them food, no problem. I give money to charities because then I know that it will be spent in a way I agree with. (I research my charities.)
post #11 of 36
Most of the time I prefer to donate to agencies who can actually help with life needs.

There are a few people I occassionally do give money to. I used to live downtown, and knew many of the regulars by sight and sometimes names. The people whom seem to have some other reason than addiction or lack of motivation, I will give to. They've usually got something going on upstairs, aren't treatable or aren't treated, and are generally harmless.

One of the guys that sells papers, I know he is down there by choice. I dated his son. He's a real estate agent. A computer programmer. Has a PhD in psychology. He is there by choice. I don't give him money for his paper, but I'll stop by when I see him and chat about how the grandkids are doing.
post #12 of 36
My dh's story: One day he was going to run into Blockbuster, and he heard a woman calling to him from across the (busy 5 lane!) street. He's thinking 'oh, here we go' and probably rolling his eyes, thinking what story am I going to here today for a handout. She runs across the street toward him, and asks if she could have $5 to feed her grandson at McD's. Just as he was going to answer her, he noticed that she didn't have any hands. !!!!!!! He took $5 out of his pocket, and she asked if he could put it in her pocket for her. And she thanked him and ran back across the street to McD's. That was definately the first time that he didn't feel irritated after giving someone $.
post #13 of 36
I used to work in downtown Chicago. On my walk between the train station and the building I worked in, I have seen every single scam there is and have heard every possible sob story you can imagine.

I used to give a few bucks to an older lady in the Loop because I know she would go into the 7-11 around the corner and buy instant lotterey tickets (I watched her do it once). Something about her doing that made me smile, so I was happy to give her the money for the scratch-offs.

Also in Chicago, you can purchase coupons through http://www.chicagoshares.org/ to pass out to homeless people that can be used at pharmacies, some restaurants, etc, but they cannot be redeemed for cigs or alcohol. I remember giving out one of these to a panhandler on the Lyric Opera bridge and he crumpled it up and threw it into the river. I dunno. Maybe he couldn't read what was written on it.

If I had extra time, I used to sit and talk with a guy who sits on a bench on Wacker Drive overlooking the river. He sold Streetwise. I asked him once why he was homeless, and he said it was his choice. He had freedom, and people like me who "work for the man" don't. I guess he has a point. One Christmas I bought him a liter of Canadian Club because I noticed he always had a bottle of the off-brand. He was a cool guy. He sang and never bothered anyone.
post #14 of 36
I gave $10 to a girl who looked like she desperately needed it. She ran it over to what looked like her pimp. I don't give money any more.
post #15 of 36
Sometimes I give, sometimes I don't. It depends on the feeling I get from the situation. I have had "regulars" near my job or on my way to school that I give to everysingletime and a few I skip because I just get a bad feeling. Anyone aggressive, hostile, or demanding can forget it because I don't want to engage anyone that seems like they might go off.
post #16 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthea™ View Post
I gave $10 to a girl who looked like she desperately needed it. She ran it over to what looked like her pimp. I don't give money any more.
Well, you might have saved her from a beating. Those "men" often don't care where the money comes from, just so long as the amount they want goes into their pocket.
post #17 of 36
for us it depends on the circumstance. Dh gave money to a girl "who's car broke down, and she had no gas." he saw her jump into a guys car and drive off. We see her evry now and then. She will not get money.

I give food sometimes, which is different then money. I did give a guy money who told me honestly he wanted alcahol. I appreciated his honesty.

as for your situation, some of them i would continue to help out, others I wouldn't.
post #18 of 36
I'll donate to reliable charities, but very very rarely will I give cash directly to somebody who asks for it on the street.

I remember once, on the train home from college, a person sitting near me had an "off peak" ticket and not enough cash to upgrade it for the 'peak" time we were traveling. I gladly gave her a dollar so she'd have enough. I could easily afford it and she needed it.

I've donated clothes, housewares, and food to organizations, and clothing and housewares directly to individuals who needed them.
post #19 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthea™ View Post
I gave $10 to a girl who looked like she desperately needed it. She ran it over to what looked like her pimp. I don't give money any more.
Has anyone read A Fine Balance? It's been awhile, so my memory is a little fuzzy, but it takes place in India and part of the story revolves around a character in something like a beggar-ring, controlled by a Beggarmaster, who finds locations for beggars and protects their turf from beggars in other beggar-rings. He gets a large cut of their earnings. They have to pay. It's kind of like the mob. Anyway, I sometimes suspect that something like that is going on in my area, because I see a pattern in where they locate, like they are rotating street corners.
post #20 of 36
I don't give to people that ask me, I'll donate to agencies I've looked into.
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