Why I Never Give Money To Homeless People

by Broke Grad on July 29, 2008

This past weekend I was hanging out in the city with a few of my friends. The city is the place to be on the weekends. You’ll find some of everything there — residents, tourists, freaks, geeks, foreigners, dudes, chicks, dudes dressed as chicks, chicks dressed as dudes, and the homeless. While we were hanging out in the city, my friends and I were approached by homeless people multiple times.

Having spent four years of my life bombarded by panhandlers in Chicago, saying no is practically second nature to me now. Seeing the same people on the El asking for money every weekend made me grow rather cynical. There was one incident in particular where one of the perpetual panhandlers started saying his lines, and a lady started warning the other passengers not to give him money because he didn’t need it.

In other incidents, I’ve seen homeless people flat out refuse food from others just trying to help them out. Apparently, some of them are hungry for money, not food. Other times I’ve seen people give a homeless person some money, only for the homeless person to get mad when they can’t spare a little more. These experiences have left quite an impression on me, and that’s why I never give homeless people money.

I know it sounds selfish, and maybe it is. However, this study shows that I’d fit right in with the college students at UNC when it comes to giving handouts to the homeless. Here are the main reasons I never give homeless people money.

You don’t know what they are going to do with it. I really hate the feeling of not knowing if they spend the money on something useful. Of course, their signs always mention they need money for food, but we all know that it could just as easily go towards drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. I’m not trying to stereotype all homeless people this way, but my biggest concern is that I have no idea which ones are being genuine and honest.

Sometimes they aren’t even thankful. As I mentioned before, some homeless people blatantly refuse food offerings because they’d prefer money. That’s like having a friend throw away a birthday cake you made for them because they prefer pie. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve helped an old lady cross the street and held doors open for strangers, and these people have been more grateful than any homeless person I ever gave money to before I adopted my new policy.

There are better alternatives. In fact, maybe the reason some homeless people aren’t thrilled about money and food is because they’re really just looking for conversation, as this article suggests. As far as money is concerned, I prefer donating to organizations that help the homeless rather than giving money directly to the homeless, because I know that the money will be used appropriately.

With that being said, my friends see things differently. All of them ended up giving change to most of the homeless people we ran into this weekend. In fact, one of the homeless guys tried to make me feel guilty for being the only person in our group to not give him some money, and it made me wonder.

Do we give money to the homeless to help them out or do we do it to feel better about ourselves?

Most, if not all, of the people I’ve met who regularly give money to the homeless mention a common feeling — guilt. When you mention that the homeless person could spend the money on something bad, they usually say something like, “That’s not my responsibility anymore.” Basically, they’ve done their good deed, and the overwhelming feeling of guilt is gone.

Do you give money to the homeless? Is the act of giving a selfish act?

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