Should You Give Money to a Homeless Person?

by Jason on August 5, 2009

It’s happened to all of us.  We’re walking along, minding our own business or perhaps enjoying a conversation with a friend and out of the corner of our eye we catch sight of him.

There he is wearing layers of disheveled clothes, looking like he hasn’t showered in months and holding out a cup begging for change from every passerby.

“Ridiculous”, you think to yourself, “why doesn’t he just clean himself up and get a job?”   Then the “good” part of your conscience kicks in, “I should really give him something, what if he really is desperate for food?  Ah, he’ll probably just buy drugs or booze anyways.  I wouldn’t want to contribute to his problems”.  And so you walk by feeling justified in your own mind.

Photo by St.Stev

I know I’ve certainly been there.  So what is the right thing to do?  Should we give money to the homeless man or woman begging for help?

I think it’s a fair question because on the one hand we all have an innate sense to help others.

On the other hand a lot of us have that feeling that the homeless person will not use the money to buy food, but rather on something he shouldn’t whether it be lottery tickets, drugs or alcohol.

These are legitimate concerns.

Seek First to Understand

According to a HUD Office of Policy & Development research study done in December 1999, there are various reasons contributing to homelessness and various reasons that keep a person in that lifestyle.  According to the survey, respondents were asked what the single most important thing they needed right now:

  • Help finding a job was the most frequently cited need (42%)
  • Help finding affordable housing (38%)
  • Assistance with paying rent, mortgage, or utilities in relation to securing permanent housing (30%)
  • Job training and medical care (13 % each)

The survey also asked homeless persons what their childhood was like:

Twenty-nine percent of homeless clients also report abuse or neglect in childhood from someone in their household (12 percent neglect, 22 percent physical abuse, and 13 percent sexual abuse). Thirty-three percent ran away from home and 22 percent were forced to leave home for at least 24 hours before they reached age 18. In addition, 21 percent report that their first period of homelessness predated their 18th birthday (this homelessness might have been with their family or on their own).

Does that come as any surprise?  We probably could have guessed there were various forms of abuse and neglect in their childhood.  At the very least, this data gives us a reference point.

The next time we see a homeless person and think, “Just clean yourself up” we might be able to have some compassion instead and think about the rough childhood they had or the abuse they’ve gone through and the people skills and job training they never received from parents who loved them.  Many of them have had a rough life.

Photo by: Steven McDonald

Other Statistics About Homelessness

Food problems experienced by homeless clients included eating one meal a day or less (20 percent); being hungry in the past 30 days but not eating because they could not afford enough food (39 percent); and going a whole day without eating anything at all in the last 30 days (40 percent).

Additionally, thirty-eight percent of homeless persons reported being robbed, while another forty-one percent reported having money or other items stolen from a locker or other place of storage.  Seven percent reported being sexually assaulted or raped and another twenty-two percent were physically assaulted.

The Homeless Will Just Buy Drugs or Alcohol

This is a legitimate concern.  After all, if you are going to help you would like to know that your money is going to buy food or clothing or other items they need and not go towards fueling some addiction.

The NHSACP study reported that over the course of their lifetime, 62 percent of homeless respondents reported problems with alcohol use and 58 percent reported problems with the use of drugs.

We need to remind ourselves, however, that not every homeless person will buy drugs or alcohol.  We shouldn’t generalize and stereotype every homeless person.  To do so would be an insult to their personhood and worth much like you and I feel slighted when someone paints us with a broad brushstroke.

Do not think twice about calling alcohol and drug hotlines if you think a friend or a loved one needs that kind of help.

Photo by: Vincos

What Should Our Attitude Be Towards the Homeless?

I have to admit, I have a lot of growing to do in this area, but what stood out in my mind as I read this study is that in general homeless persons don’t want to be homeless, but as a result of many contributing factors they are many times unsure how or, in some cases, mentally or physically unable to break free from their lifestyle.

The other thing that impacted me in this study is the realization that many, if not all, of the homeless people we see today have had a rough life.  They haven’t had a good childhood or education.  Many of them have been abused and neglected, which means that I need to be more compassionate and understanding rather than judgmental and arrogant.

I was reminded recently from a friend that we shouldn’t be motivated by guilt to help the needy because guilt will eventually burn us out.

Instead, we should be motivated by the fact that we are the needy and the spiritually poor,  and Jesus has come and given us His life so that we can have eternal, abundant life through Him.  Because of what He’s done for us we can be a beacon of light and hope to others.

Photo by: JamesFischer

How Should We Help The Homeless?

It’s probably safe to admit that most of us have a desire to help people in need, but we’re just unsure how to go about it.  We want to do something to help them and not hurt them or add to their problems.

I don’t think we should stop giving money to the homeless, but certainly we can be a little discerning when we are giving.

I remember listening to a sermon some time ago where John Piper asked the question of whether or not God would hold you accountable because you gave the homeless man $20 and he spent it on alcohol or would He say “Thank you for having a heart and compassion for the weak and the poor”.

There are a number of things we can do to help the homeless.  If you feel uncomfortable with giving money, then why not buy them lunch or dinner.

You could always give them warmer clothes or buy them a cup of hot coffee on a cold day.

What about serving in a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.  If you work in an area where you see the same homeless person on a regular basis, why not stop and talk to them and listen to their story?

You might find there’s an actual person under those disheveled clothes.

What About You?

I’d like to hear from you.

  • What do you think about giving money to the homeless?
  • What are other ways we can help the poor and needy?
  • What has been your experiences in this area?

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{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig @ Money Help For Christians August 5, 2009 at 9:07 am

Thanks for introducing this topic. I actually have a post that will go live on Sunday that shares some of my thoughts on the topic.
The best idea I have is to sit with the poor and listen. Once “the poor” is “a person” you might be willing to get your hands dirty.

Bible Money Matters August 5, 2009 at 10:48 am

Great post! I’ll admit to harboring some of these ideas at times – wondering whether money I give will be used for the wrong types of things. A sermon my pastor gave on the topic – similar to the one you mentioned above – asked us whether God would want us to be giving, or whether he would want us to withhold our help because it might be used in the wrong way. The answer as you mentioned was that we should be giving, and that God wants us to have a heart of compassion for others. If you don’t want to give cash, take them to lunch and buy them some food. God will never fault you for helping those who are in need.

ChristianPF August 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm

great post – I remember writing about this topic a couple years ago and getting some very interesting responses. I don’t know where Piper went with that mesage you mentioned, but I typically think it is better to give. The Bible has a lot to say about giving to the poor, and very little about us having to figure out what they are going to do with what they are given…

JoeTaxpayer August 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Years ago, I was in Chicago on business, and had a client with me. As we walked around, I pulled out a dollar to anyone with their hand out, maybe $10 total the whole trip, two cups of Starbucks. The guy asks me “how can you give to every person who asks”? I didn’t think too long and answered, “How can you walk by and never pull out a dollar”?

Now when Jane 2.0 (my 10 yr old) and I are planning to be in a city, she reminds me to get singles on the way past the bank. She and I take turns reaching into our pockets and for her, it’s her own money. For the $15 we gave out the last we were there, the Big Guy ™ rewarded us with a parking space that saved us a $25 garage fee. One way or another, I always come out ahead.

Matthew August 5, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I appreciate the post. However, I do not give out money to those who appear homeless. If asked for money, I will say, “I won’t give you any money but I’ll buy you lunch.” If they respond favorably, we’ll go to the nearest restaurant and I’ll buy what they request. If they respond unfavorably, “No… just need a couple bucks…come on man…” then I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be using the money for something I won’t approve of and I’ll keep walking. As a steward of God’s resources, I just want to be doubly sure I’m not enabling an addiction.

K.S. Katz August 5, 2009 at 1:48 pm

“If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.” Deuteronomy 15:7

Whenever I can, I give whatever is in my change purse to the homeless. Sometimes it’s $1, sometimes it’s $10 or more. I’ve never looked down on someone living in the streets because I know what it’s like to be down on your luck. It’s not my place to judge their lifestyle.

Ashley August 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm

This topic has always been one that tugged at my heart. I sometimes give money, but usually help in other ways. My college town had a large homeless population. I’d keep extra water in my car during summers to pass out and extra warm clothing and blankets I no longer needed for the winters. There aren’t a lot of visible homeless people in the area I’m currently in, but donating time to programs that help the underprivileged learn life skills they may not have learned early in life is a great help. is a great site to find organizations that need assistance. Over the years I’ve found opportunities to help with literacy, job training, food bank, coats for kids, and many other programs. Also, you can go directly to your local homeless shelter and ask what areas they need help in. It’s easy to take being blessed for granted, but helping others is an awesome feeling that nothing else can replace.

Len Penzo August 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm

I just don’t believe that money is the proper handout to a beggar – mainly because I can’t know for sure if the money is going to be used for a drug habit or alcohol, and I do not want to be an enabler. When I see somebody I judge to be truly in need (as opposed to the professional beggar), I always offer to get them something to eat.

My $0.02 (after taxes)

Len Penzo dot Com

jtopp August 5, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Craig, looking forward to your post and thoughts about this question. That’s a great point about helping real people and not just “the poor”.

jtopp August 6, 2009 at 9:14 am

That’s a great way to teach your children about generosity and helping the poor! I like that.

jtopp August 6, 2009 at 9:18 am

I can appreciate your concern. I think taking them out to lunch is also a great way to get to know them as individuals and hear more of their story. Out of curiosity, what happens if you don’t always have the time to sit down for lunch?

jtopp August 6, 2009 at 9:23 am

Thanks for sharing that verse.

jtopp August 6, 2009 at 9:24 am

Ashley, I agree, our help doesn’t always have to be money. I like your ideas for volunteering. Thanks for sharing that website as well.

jtopp August 6, 2009 at 9:29 am

As mentioned above, taking them out to eat or buying them lunch gives a greater chance of getting to know them and finding out their true needs.

MB August 6, 2009 at 10:31 am

This is an interesting conversation that I think is often overlooked by most Christians. Most of us think that our FIRST inclination, which is to have a tight fist around our money, is a righteous claim and then we find ways to justify it. I would be curious to have someone supply a Scripture that states that we ought not give money to the poor out of fear that they will misuse that money (or anything loosely associated with this idea). What is more I would challenge each person who says this by asking a similar question that Jason asked above, (what if you don’t have time to eat lunch”)… “what if they just ate lunch using money that was previously given them (are they supposed to eat again or are you exempt from having to give to them in this moment)?” “What if they are embarrassed by their dress and smell to enter a restaurant and SIT DOWN to eat (which having worked with the homeless is often a concern of theirs)?”

The point is, we are not obligated to always give to every person who asks for money but by the Spirit’s leading we have to have a heart that IS WILLING and trust the Spirit’s leading as the ultimate discernment. We cannot trust OUR subjective judgments as the final authority as to who DESERVES to have grace and mercy bestowed upon them, if that were the case, we would all be in serious trouble before God, none of us would stand.

I agree that buying food, or clothing is great (actually what I like to do, and what you can do to resolve this whole question is to buy giftcards to McDonalds or the local gas station, with several dollars on them, this way they can eat when they NEED to, you are being obedient to God and you are keeping them from potentially misusing the funds). But regardless of the tactics you use, the main thing we need to remember is that it is not our job to judge them, it is our job to have a giving heart.

I fear often times we try to justify our not giving by appealing to a habit which (1. we don’t know they have. 2. We cannot ascertain in a short amount of time. 3. Is not our responsibility to judge in the first place). We need to be concerned with our heart and let God convict them of any sin in theirs. For instance, what if they DO have a habit but because of the mercy shown them by YOU they check out the local church and get clean…does this have more of an impact that denying them money because they were perceived to have a habit? How many times does God show you grace and you pervert it by your sin, is God ever going to stop being gracious towards you because of your perversion? Of course the answer is “no”, because he is “patient and longsuffering” with you, “NOT TREATING YOUR SINS AS YOU DESERVE” (Psalm 103:10).

Finally, you don’t have to sit down and have a heart to heart to share the love of God with them (of course this would be the preferred model of evangelism) but we can definitely have an impact for the Kingdom by letting them know the love Jesus has for them by making known the reason you are giving them money. Never let that opportunity go to waste, always give glory to Him in these moments and tell them He is the reason you are doing what you are doing.

lolcat August 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

LOL…. “The Big Guy”…….. ROTFLOL

Hate the Homeless August 6, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Homeless people are the scum of our society and I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for them. They are the ones that made the wrong decisions in their life. They are the ones who chose to not get an education. They are the ones who chose to not learn a marketable skill. A solid education and a marketable skill does not always guarantee success in life, of course. But, not having an education or skill almost always guarantees failure.

These losers got exactly what they deserve in life and they certainly do not deserve any of our money, sympathy or respect. Please do not promote their careless and disgusting lifestyle.

Remember what I tell my children… All of us were created equal, but that does not mean that all of us are equal. Life is all about making the right decisions. Homeless scum chose to make the wrong decisions. They deserve absolutely nothing.

MB August 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Jesus Christ died for you too brother. You can have everlasting joy and peace by trusting in Him. You are spiritually bankrupt, just as you charge the homeless to be materially, but God has purchased your soul through Jesus Christ! Not merely so that you can go to heaven but so that you can live life here on earth with confidence, abundant joy, exuberance and peace, looking past yourself with eyes of compassion and love.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

Matthew August 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I still remember my freshmen year in college coming back from visiting home, I was walking to my dorm at about 8 in the morning. I was next to a McDonald’s and a homeless man asked for some money. I said, “No, but I’ll buy you some breakfast.” He said, “Come on, just a couple bucks.” I replied, “I’m not going to give you any money but I will buy you a meal.” He said, “Well, ok then.” I then asked, “What would you like?” He said, “Spaghetti.” Now remember, this was in the AM and we were right by McDonald’s. I told him I couldn’t help him with that. It was obvious he wanted money for drugs or alcohol.

A different time a lady came up to me when I was outside waiting for a table at a restaurant with some friends. She too asked for money to help feed her family. I told her I’d go buy her some food at the grocery across the street, but I wouldn’t just give her the money. She said, “Ok.” So we went together and she got some flank steak and something else I can’t recall. I told her the reason I was doing this was because I love Jesus and that Jesus loves her. She said, “I love Jesus too!” and then I saw her off to the public transit.

So if I don’t have time to sit with them, I will pay for their meal, and tell them that I did this because I love Jesus and that Jesus loves them too.

I think buying their meal is a simple way of getting to the heart of their need.

Adam August 6, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Great article. My wife and I have had this conversation many times. We absolutely believe in helping others, especially those who have fallen on hard times. We’ve adopted several simple policies to help us. First, I am happy to buy a homeless person lunch or other necessities instead of giving them money. Second, we research and select charities that align with our beliefs and where at least 85% of the donation goes to the program costs.

kim August 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I do not think we should give money to a homeless person. I have bought them a meal, fed their dog, bought them a cold drink on a hot day or on more than one occasion gave them my lunch.

I feel that they are homeless for a reason and like all of the things in life we say we would never be or do, we do not know what that reason is and should not judge. You never know you could be that person someday.

Especially right now we are all living paycheck to paycheck and a sudden illness or job loss could put us right there on the street next to them.

I think that if we give them money we could just be contributing to an existing drug or alcohol problem and in reality we are not helping them but in fact adding to their particular problem.

I often remind myself when i see a homeless person, whether they are panhandling or just walking down the road, that they are someones mother,father,sister,brother aunt or uncle and they just want to be loved and respected like the rest of us.

Rebecca Mallory August 10, 2009 at 9:35 am

If you have it to give, I believe God would want you to-what they do with it is between God and them in my opinion. If you are like me, and finances are limited a smile and a warm hello can go a long way. See my article Random Acts of Kindness at . Blessings!

NM August 10, 2009 at 11:42 am

Wow! How sad is that you generalize and assume that all homeless people deserve what they have! Fortunately for you, you had parents that HELP YOU make the right decisions and that provided for your needs. Most homeless people have not had that blessing. Even when the opportunities have presented in their lives they have not been able to take hold of them because of lack of basic resources. I admit that sometimes I do, like most of us, think “Hopefully he/she will use these few dollars to buy food”, but you know what, then I think, my duty is to help, not to make assumptions and most importantly, pray for that person as you drive away. My children see me giving and it’s a life lesson, I do talk about personal responsibility with them but also stress the fact that if not for the grace of God, we all too could be homeless “scum” as you refer to these individuals.

VA August 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Sir, you have a well of bitterness springing up in your soul and spewing out of your mouth. I would like for you to explain what the 200,000+ Texans who lost their jobs last month could have done to counteract that.
Also, in the early 2000′s, I know personally of engineers (people with degrees and marketable skills) who contacted the President of my company asking, ‘ do you know of anyone who is hiring and, if not, if you hear of anything, will you PLEASE let me know’?

I don’t know if you believe the Bible or not, but I’m reminded of a verse that says, “judge not that ye be not judged”…….(paraphrasing now….. but how we judge is how we will be judged. In my opinion, you dished out some pretty harsh judgment and it may come back to haunt you some day. Also, you never know how those little children you are raising will grow up to be.

God bless you and soften you heart.

Mecha August 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I was wondering about the idea of $5 gift cards to grocery or gas stations. Most won’t allow you to redeem them for alcohol or cigarettes but you can buy food or drink. My husband and I were thinking of doing this because I am worried about carrying over a few dollars at a time with me when I am alone.

Korwin August 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm

A had spent a year volunteering every week at a homeless shelter a few years ago and had the opportunity to see into the life of a previously homeless person who lived on the streets for 15 years. As a addict to a list of drugs/alcohols, he impressed upon me never to give money directly to a homeless person as he said it would only feed the habits. But strongly sugguested to take the homeless to the nearest fastfood and buy them a meal as it would show how much you care. He also said the homeless shelters do the best job at providing and understanding how to care for the homeless such that donations to the shelter where the best way to help the homeless.

jtopp August 10, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Thanks MB for your thought provoking comments. I think the gift cards idea is a great one. I had never thought of that before.

Andy November 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I think I’ll start carrying McDonalds/Subway gift cards and giving those out instead of cash.

Alex November 6, 2009 at 12:55 am

Sigh. I’ve been homeless and had to panhandle a bit. I always accepted food and ate it right there if at all possible. Gift cards were great, I ate for a week on one from Jack In The Box. I talked with people, pushed cars, carried groceries, helped with homework, got cussed out, got given amounts from 13c or so to $40 at a time, frankly got a lot of interesting experiences. My “faith in humanity” became unsinkable – there are just a lot of very nice people out there, and even the ones who cussed me out, may well change quite a bit in time, since in the past I too cussed out people asking for money.

Gift cards are an outstanding idea and ones for food establishments can’t be used for booze etc. So are what I”d called “hygiene kits”, bags of hand wipes, q-tips (homeless tend to have filthy ears, sad to say) toothpicks, toothpaste and brush, stuff like that. Keep in mind many homeless folks have dental issues and can’t eat hard foods. Many have food allergies etc and can’t eat just anything.

There’s a lot of smoking, drinking, and drug use among street-culture people, I’ve been surprise to learn. I don’t know why someone who’s poor would want to load these extra things onto their already heavy load, but they do. I got offered cigarettes many a time, and occasionally was asked if I’d use the money I asked for for drugs – I’m sure people thought my look of shock as faked but it was real. To me, being poor means going back to the Spartan lifestyle I had when I was a student, but I’m not sure how prevalent this attitude is. One thing to remember is, if a person smokes or drinks etc they ARE going to find a way to do it. It’s a heck of a thing but, your donation may enable them to get their pack of cigs or 40oz and get to their sleeping place for the night rather than spend another 2-3 hours out there hustling.

What amazes me is how, when a person falls, their friends and family will just draw away from them, and look on them in horror then look away – and effectively run away. I can only think of the quote that goes something like, “I fear for my nation when I contemplate that the world is just”.

Jason November 6, 2009 at 10:43 am

Wow! Thanks for sharing your experience. This is a great insight. I really like your idea about the hygiene kits. I never thought of something like that, but could see how that could be very beneficial.

I think you’re right in terms of family and friends running away rather than trying to help – perhaps they are too unsure how to help.

Thanks again for the enlightening insights!

Dee Dee November 9, 2009 at 8:37 am

This topic came up in my English class. One girl said, “If I want to give my money to a homeless person, It shouldn’t be anyone elses business. Its my money why should anyone care what I do with it? If a homeless person uses it for alcohol so what. Maybe they will smile for a while.” The problem is that drinking doesn’t make an alcoholic smile.I do volunteer work and I have 100 good reasons not to give them money. I too was homeless for almost 2 years. I know first hand what can happen. The agencies that help the homeless will not help them if they are under the influence and so they go hungry and sleep out in the snow. They wander out into traffic, commit crimes and even die. If you truley want to help, find out what agencies are in your area and donate, time, money, food and clothing. This girl may feel that its no body’s business. I feel that she is adding to the problem and that these people are my brothers and sisters and can’t help but make it my business.

Jason November 9, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for you take Dee Dee. You’re right, most of the agencies are equipped and there to provide the best possible help. I think we need to be discerning about the help we give and always be sure our motivation is in the right place.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut November 14, 2009 at 10:59 am

Back in my secular days, I had the hard attitude toward the homeless that’s common to many, ie, they brought it on themselves, they’ll use any money for alcohol or drugs, I need to keep my money so I don’t become one of THEM, or what ever other mental justification would get me thru the moment without having to open my wallet.

Now, I give them a few bucks if I have it, and figure my responsibility is to give (without judging) and it’s between them and God if their need is honest.

This is actually liberating because it frees me of having to anylize the situation at hand and from feeling guilty for doing nothing to help someone when I actually could (yes, even in my secular life, this was an issue I worked hard to keep out of my concious mind).
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Credit Cards vs. Debit Cards – A Different Take =-.

Jason November 15, 2009 at 10:39 am

@ Kevin – thanks for sharing your story. I’m with you…I used to have the same heart attitudes and still find myself fighting against some of those same attitudes sometimes.

You make the same point that John Piper makes – that if your heart attitude is right in helping God’s not going to be upset with you.

I think the bigger issue is that we all need to have a bigger heart for the poor, the weak and the less fortunate.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut November 16, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Jason, but I’d say mine is less of a story, and more of an attitude adjustment! There are a millions reasons we can offer for not getting involved, and most of them seem logical to us. But giving is about trusting and not worrying about the outcome.

It took me a lot of years to get to that point and as a believer I’m sure you can appreciate that it was a change that came about from a Source outside myself. Left to my own devices, I’d still be tightly clutching every last dollar!

Maria Keller November 25, 2009 at 7:01 am

I’m just now seeing this article, after having clicked a link on Roth IRAs (I don’t have one as yet, although I am in the age bracket where I would be allowed to contribute the bonus $1,000!). So this article was a stark contrast to the usual money concerns that bring a person to this website.

Without getting into the religious angle, yes I can and have given money to the homeless person, and I feel it is not my business what they spend the money on. To put restrictions on a gift is to lessen the gift, and that goes for giving to the homeless as well as what people may give their own friends and relatives as money gifts. That pack of cigarettes, to which many would disapprove for example, may be something that will bring comfort for a day or more, and even hope. When we put something out into the Universe, whatever it is, whether it is money, love, kindness….or their opposites, creates a ripple effect outward. It is not for us to know all the details of what a kind act can mean to someone, but we should rest in knowing that the result of kindness can never be a bad thing.

It’s best to err on the side of kindness!

Maria Keller

Jason November 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Hey Maria, thanks for checking out the post! I agree, a simple act of kindness goes a long way and can have a kind of ripple effect! Erring on the side of kindness is a great way to put it!

ethan December 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I was thinking of carrying around a couple mcdonalds gift cards. ’cause than they have to spend it on food.

Shareforrichness December 27, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I differentiate between “the poor” and “a beggar”. I think giving money to a beggar perpetuates that demeaning station (begging) in the mind and life of this person born to be a noble being. I believe the kinds of help suggested by other responders for physical and spiritual needs, and compassionate kindness, given with love, elevate both the giver and the receiver.
The formerly homeless woman responder talked about doing various small jobs for money. Giving to any person, poor or otherwise, for doing work is only just–it’s payment for services rendered. And service to humanity, (eg pushing a car) is service to God.

kelly January 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I give to our church home missions. This is a good way of helping, as the church leaders know were our funds are going, such as Operation Compassion and Home for Children.

Jason January 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

@Shareforrichness – Good thoughts. I think you’re right, oftentimes when we give we can perpetuate their situation and foster that type of lifestyle.

I think at first it’s good to offer mercy by giving money, but if they continue to beg we should look for opportunities to help develop them and move them beyond that lifestyle.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut January 8, 2010 at 11:47 am

I’m now of the opinion that giving money to a homeless person is more about us than it is about the person we’re giving (or not giving) money to. It’s a condition of the heart issue.

We may not be in a position to give to everyone who comes accross our paths, but we should be prepared to give to at least a few.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Save a Bundle By Repairing Your Eyeglasses =-.

Two Cents January 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I live and work in one of the three largest cities in the United States. So, I will speak on my own personal experiences.

I think it’s important to distinguish between the homeless and beggars. The main difference is that most people do not see 90% of the true homeless people; Most people actually see beggars, which are not all homeless.

I have absolutely no problem helping someone (or a family) who has fallen on hard times, and neither does our nation, as a whole. There are benefits organizations receive that try to help these people in the masses (churches, charitable organizations, etc…). Even as individuals, our donations to these organizations become ‘tax-deductible’ donations.

What I DO have a huge problem with is encouraging beggars, with no desire to better their lives, to continue. Now, as I mentioned before I live and work in a large city. 95% of beggars only show up in two different times. The first time they show up is between 6-9:30ish AM; The second time, you guessed it, 4pm-6pm. They also only show up in areas where the are a lot of daily commuters (train stations) that do not actually live in the city. They do this in order to maximize their “stash”. In fact, occasionally the Police come by and actually will take these individuals to jail and release them when rush hour has completed. You’ve probably never looked very hard, but these people also carry around duffel bags with them because they get SOOO much change that they can’t reasonably stuff it in their pockets. They also receive canned goods daily and cannot just throw it away because then people would catch on to their game.

Three years ago, a buddy of mine, who runs a logistics division for a shipping company, once gave a beggar (who he saw everyday for 6 months) his business card and said, “If you would like a job, I run a shipping company; I can’t pay you much, but it would be a steady job”. This individual ended up calling my friend and taking the job. After a while, he finally told my friend how the “game” worked. I’ll spare you all the details, but let’s just say most of these people (keep in mind, this is in my city) make almost $200/day by begging.

I’ll tell you from my own experience, I have seen the exact same people begging for money year-after-year. I’ve also been on the subway and, when asked, told people that I do not have any change, but can show them what stop the nearest homeless shelter or soup kitchen is at. I’ve been told, by these people, that I’m “ignorant” (because I wont give them any money) and that they don’t need a homeless shelter, just a few bucks.

Now, I’ll tell you that I flat out refuse to give money to any beggar I see. I think 95% of these people are trying to take advantage of nice people by being lazy. When I see the same people day-after-day, month-after-month, and year-after-year, it begins to tell me something. I work very hard to make my money, and unless you are prepared to at least try to help yourself, I have no harsh feelings that somehow I’m hurting this person from being able to wake up the next day.

I DO give plenty of money to organizations, such as the United Way, that help people that have fallen on hard times. I also volunteer at United Way events, soup kitchens, participate in Free Tax Preparation services, etc… I have absolutely no problem doing things like this and it makes me feel really good because the people are very appreciative. Another important thing I have realized is that the people that come to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc… are very different minded than the people I see on a day-to-day basis begging for change. These people don’t treat you like it’s your job to give them money; they simply thank you for your generosity. These people also have told me they dislike people that beg because it puts a bad name out for those that are truly in need. In fact, most “homeless” people are too shy to beg for money. The true homeless are too busy looking through an alley trying to find a comfortable place to stay or food to eat to go begging for change.

Now, when I do these events and hear the nice things these people say about me for coming to help out once in a while, and then see these bitter angry beggars trying to get my money and calling me ignorant, it really disturbs me. There’s absolutely no way you know where your money is going. And, to be quite honest, those of you giving a dollar here or there are enabling these people to continue their destructive behavior (similar to someone with an addiction). The homeless people that are really in a bind are going to be doing something to make their lives better.

As a final thought, and since this is a financial-related post, think about all the taxes that come out of your paycheck. We pay the government to sponsor so many programs to help the homeless that it seems ridiculous to hand out even more money. Now, I understand the government isn’t the best at making programs work very well, but I just think that overall, people do way more than they need to, by contributing time and money, to give out extra money. If everyone actually stopped handing out money, these people would have to find something else to do with their time, which might actually improve society as a whole.

So, I would encourage everyone to make a list of the nearest 5-10 homeless shelters and print it on the back of some green monopoly money. When someone begs, hand them the slip of paper and ask if they need directions.

Just my two cents…

Jason January 11, 2010 at 6:31 am

Kevin, good insight – I think you’re right in that many times we give out of a sense of guilt or perhaps even fear (that God will not be pleased with us) rather than out of a true sense to help the needy person.

Being prepared to give is also a key – if we are loaded with debt or can’t see past all the toys we own, we are not prepared to give.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..The Paradox of Money and Satisfaction =-.

Jason January 11, 2010 at 6:40 am

Hey Two Cents – I appreciate your well-thought-out comment. I don’t disagree that there are many who take advantage of unsuspecting “givers”, although I’m not sure about the percentages you’ve given.

I think it’s smart to point them to a shelter or soup kitchen because those organizations are trained in assisting the whole person, not just give them a few bucks.

I do think we need to consider whether relief or development will help the needy person more. In other words, will giving them a few bucks to get a meal (relief) assist them more than helping them refine job skills, money skills etc (development).

In some cases the needy will need both and in many cases they probably need development.

We should always be ready to provide relief and be willing to go the extra mile to provide development.
.-= Jason´s last blog ..Should You Wait to Give Until You Have Enough Money? =-.

Lance February 19, 2010 at 3:49 am

Hey, I wrote an article on this same topic. I would love for you to check it out, and let me know what you think.

ruth March 10, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I was LDS (Mormon) and gave a sandwich from time to time to a guy who was RV homeless. I got ‘called in’ by the bishop and stake president because they felt I was enabling him and encouraging him to stay in our area, and that a married woman should not be doing such things. This is what eventually caused my years long brainwashing to cease and realize what a bunch of hypocritical crap this cult was preaching. Lots of homeless get meals through religious groups and my friend was very good with scripture. It’s been almost 3 years and we still do regular scripture study (online, wherever/whenever he gets to a library).

I would rather give money/food/clothes as situations present itself than pay a full tithing to a church that buys malls, resorts, pays its upper leaders well, corporations, yet gives no accountability to its members nor the IRS as to the money it takes in, and cares more about how its members look on the outside than what goes on the inside between self and relationship to God.

Jason March 11, 2010 at 7:07 am

Ruth, I’m so glad you checked out the blog! Thanks for your heart for the homeless, and I’m glad that God’s been working the truth into your heart more and more. In the gospels, Jesus talks a lot about what you bring up – hypocrisy, religion and hearts for the poor and marginalized.

Martha March 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I strongly believe that everyone should help the homeless from the kindness of thier heart. Some folks have become homeless by choice and folks well I guess they choose to be homeless. I will say That I was homeless and it wasn’t my choice to be homeless needless to say that thier was a great deal of help from people I never knew and I was very grateful to all that had help me in those horrible times of my life. Because I will say this that the government truly does not really help the homeless the way they should I say this from my experience and it wasn’t a pleasure experience.So in essence helping the less fortunate can mean so much to them even if it is a plate of food or clothes or information to help them better themselves. Can be a bigger gift than life.

Moses March 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I used to avoid the poor and homeless until one day, when I was at a supermarket, a homeless man came up to me and asked to take my buggy (and keep the change that was inside). Normally I shy away from them, but God had already started to break my heart and show me my self-righteousness, and I was ok with speaking with the person.

After I told him, that I was fine (my mother was with me at the time and she isn’t fond of being approached by homeless people) the person looked at me and said “Moses, is that you? Do you remember me?”. I was startled. How did he know my name? Then he told me his name and told me he was in highschool with me. It’s been over 15 years since I had graduated yet when I heard his name, I remembered him. That’s when reality hit me, and I realized how I was no different than he was. He then told me that he had a rocky marriage, got divorced, lost his kids, and fell into alcoholism. He was shortly admitted to a rehab clinic after that day.

It was a wake up call for me. To realize, the poor, and homeless, are in my “circle”. And to turn a blind eye in my own mind and in my “walk of life” is unreal. I guess things are different when it hits home, and that day it did.

Since then, I am eager to greet the homeless and poor and treat them as real people because that’s who they are. And beyond that, to see that they are also made in the image of God. I struggle with giving money, but what I do instead now, is pack a lunch and bring it to them. Sometimes, I keep food handy in the car (granola bars and bottled water) so I don’t need to waste money at a fast food joint or something.

I hope to one day sit down and just chat with them and get to know them.

The verses that help me always on this, are in Proverbs where the Holy Spirit through Solomon says ” he that lends to the poor, lends to his maker”. And Jesus did say not only to the rich young ruler, but to his disciples, to sell their possessions, give to the poor, to have treasure in heaven… for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.

I am also reminded that I am now under the rule of Christ and as such, there are Kingdom rules. And in Christ’s Kingdom, the poor do matter – MUCH. So just like God’s intent in the OT for the Israelites and how they were supposed to deal with Aliens and strangers and the poor in the land, how much more am I.

But more importantly, and it’s still a process, Jesus speaks of a secret to having a changed heart. Where your treasure is, your heart is. And so, as I am learning, by putting my money and time (treasure) into caring for the poor, my heart is changing.

It still has a long ways to go, but the homeless, do matter in God’s sight. And as Christians, we are to be the light of the world. So I must daily take up my cross, die to self – that is, my self-image, self-reputation, self-glory, – and associate with the lowly, as Christ has done to one such as I (and you).

I guess that’s the key to it all isn’t it? Once we see how high and lifted up Jesus is, and how low and vile we are – the fact that He associates with us… how can we not do the same to others?

May the Lord break all our hearts, and bring us to pour contempt on all our pride, and humbly love as He does.

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