Sunday, February 19, 2012

To give to the homeless...or not?

Given that this is the season of love, with Valentine's Day just behind us and all, I tend to pay greater attention to the needs of others this time of year.  One of those needs that seems more front and center all the time - as Nevada's economy continues to take a beating  - is the homeless in our community.  I work in a downtown building, and it's safe to say that I get asked for money...a lot.

Blessing Bags via KWAVs
Usually, I make up an excuse about not having cash on me or I give the person all the change I have in my pocket. Recently, I saw these "blessing bags" on Pinterest to keep in the car to give to the needy, and thought they were pretty clever.

Seeing as how I don't actually get around to doing 99% of the things I find on Pinterest, I haven't actually made any of these "blessing bags."

One day, though, I was in my car, and I pulled up to a stop light.  Out my window, I saw a lonely looking man in a beat-up raincoat.  Something about his silver-gray beard or his particularly earnest cardboard sign tugged at my heartstrings a little.

I patted my pockets, and I actually didn't have any cash on me.  For real this time.  I couldn't very well write the guy a check. What to do? I looked around my car.

And then I saw it.  A bright yellow banana left over from lunch.  "Hey, it's better than nothing," I thought.  I rolled down my window and extended the banana to the man.

"I'm sorry!" I said.  "It's all I have with me."

He nodded and took the banana.  I rolled up the window, smiling slightly to myself and feeling pretty good about having helped someone in need...even if it was only a small gesture.  The light turned green, and I looked up in my rear-view mirror to see if I could catch a glimpse of the man.  

I caught a glimpse alright.  A glimpse of the guy tossing the banana right over his shoulder into a bush!

The nerve of some people. Seriously.  He could have at least waited until I'd driven down the block. 

Now I'm conflicted.  Do I let this one bad experience turn me into a jaded and cynical person who'd rather not help at all if my help's not appreciated?  Or do I chalk it up to one ungrateful person who doesn't reflect the true needs of these guys (or gals) with their cardboard signs on the street corners?

What about you?  Do you give to the homeless...or not?

25 comments:

  1. I will give them food (like you did) but I never give money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It seems like a better way to go...then you know if they really needed it, they've got something to eat at least. Have you ever had any negative experiences with it?

      Delete
  2. Such a great story Lisa. I guess what these guys really want is booze not food, at least when it comes to a lot of them. Don't feel too bad, not all homeless people are like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement. It was definitely disappointing. I mean, I guess I always knew that was the truth (homeless folks wanting booze mostly), but to see it so clearly was definitely an eye opener.

      Or maybe he was just allergic to bananas. Lol...

      Delete
  3. I usually donate through charity. However, my ex-fiance (college days)every Friday night would buy a six pack of beer and a pizza. We lived about 1/4 mile from the T stop and pizza place, and yet every Friday he would come home with two pieces missing and only a five pack. One day I asked him if he was really that hungry that he couldn't wait until he got home.

    He said no. He was giving two slices and a beer to "Joe" who slept in the alley behind the pizza place. EVERY FRIDAY.

    Joe had issues and would most likely want the money, yes. But every Friday he ate that pizza like it was the best meal he'd ever had. Most people just walked by him, but I'd like to think that after we moved away, someone else had seen my ex's good will and continued to take care of Joe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! What a great person your husband is! That's a really touching story. I love that the guy really appreciated what your husband was doing, and that your husband cared about a stranger so much. So cool.

      Delete
    2. It is a great story. But to clarify, he was never my husband, just an ex-fiance. Thankfully, I came to my senses long before we ever got married... ironically, Joe was the best story I have from that relationship. :)

      Delete
  4. I feel exactly like you do when it comes to this subject. I'm never quite sure what to do. It got even worse once I saw some investigative report on our local news years ago that exposed many of these people as scammers. They would "beg" all day long at intersections, etc., then walk a few blocks to their CADILLACS and put on their FUR COATS! (This was actually one specific woman they followed.) It was infuriating!

    I never give money, but I've given lots of food. Back when my kindergartners were served lunch in my classroom, I would pack up all the left-overs (which were plentiful, since 5 yr olds don't eat much) and drop them off to a trio of homeless men I would drive past every day on my way home from work. They used to hang out in a doorway of an abandoned building. They were always so appreciative of those meals, and it made me feel like I was making a difference, no matter how small.

    There was also the fellow who would stand at the end of the drive-thru driveway at the Dunkin Donuts I stopped at on the way to work. (That was pre-Keurig days ;-) ) This particular DD had a crappy set up, and there was only about one car length between the drive-thru window and the street, so you had no choice but to stop and wait until you could pull out into the street. He used that to his advantage, obviously, and seemed to get a lot of handouts. If I saw him standing there before I pulled in, I would order a few items from the dollar menu, and hand him breakfast on my way out. Now, who knows, maybe he chucked that bag to the curb as soon as I pulled away. But, I'm going to believe he enjoyed the hot meal.

    One other thing I do is keep several umbrellas in my car. I pick them up, 10 at a time, at my dollar store. Sometimes, when people are panhandling in the rain, I'll hand them one. Actually, I've given umbrellas to others besides panhandlers. More than once I've seen people, particularly with small children, standing at the bus stop in the rain, and have tossed them umbrellas from my car. Talk about people showing their appreciation! It makes it easier to forget about the scammers when you see those who appreciate your efforts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the umbrella idea! I really want to do that (and it's way less work than making up bags...haha). How clever!

      Delete
  5. Lisa! I have missed you!

    What a great post. I hope you'll chalk it up as one bad experience and keep on giving. I really like ChiTown Girl's habit of stocking up on umbrella's! What a wonderful thing to do!

    We need more people like you guys!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! I love hearing about what other do/have done. It's really inspiring.

      Delete
  6. I'm with you - I'm conflicted about it. I never know if I should give or not. Obviously, I need to do some more thinking on this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to know I'm not alone. I kind of felt like a horrible person for even considering not giving...but if my help is no good, then what's the point, right?

      I like the idea others have suggested of only giving through a charity, so at least you know you're making a difference to those who really need it.

      Delete
  7. I know what you mean. I don't give to panhandlers because of stories like the one you wrote and the others in the comments. I would much rather donate to a charity. I love to go through all my things and bag up items for donation so they can be used and loved instead of gathering dust. When I see people on the street, I feel a little better about not giving them money at that moment because I know I have donated in other ways.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such a good point. I really like this perspective.

      Delete
  8. I made some bags like this just for the simple fact of not wanting to give money to addicts (if that was an issue). So I made up bags of some eats and things and passed them out whenever I had an opportunity. I had a guy look annoyed but I like to think that if 1/5 of the people I gave a bag too was hungry, then it was worth it to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Maria. It's better to help one person than to help nobody at all. That's a very good reminder.

      Delete
  9. I think it's just one bad homeless man. For every rude one, there are dozens more that actually need and appreciate the help.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I give whenever I can...even if most of them don't appreciate it, there's always going to be the one person who really, really needs it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I routinely volunteer at the homeless shelter. Makes me feel good =)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Whenever we see the people on the corner my daughter always wants us to help. I feel pretty skeptical of most of the panhandlers as well- from experience- but I tell her that we give money to charities that help homeless people and they can make sure the money gets used in the most useful way. I hope she understands...she has such big heart and I don't want to spoil her optimistic view of the world...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think I'd rather over give than under give if that makes any sense. Don't let one bad experience jade you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Okay, I just had a similar experience. I had just driven through McDonald's drive thru and saw a man with a sign that said "Just Hungry" So I offered him my lunch and he refused and then gave me a lecture about how bad fast food was for our bodies and he would rather have cash. Oooookaayy!

    ReplyDelete