The act of giving money to a homeless person or beggar is a tricky topic. On one hand, anyone with a good heart would not mind giving some spare change. On the other hand, it is becoming more difficult to tell if someone has good intentions and genuinely needs the money. Unfortunately there are people who pose as homeless people or beggars. They hold up signs saying they need help but are just pretending in order to gather up some extra money for themselves.
Encounter 1 with homeless person or beggar
My experience was quite different, kind of the opposite of what I just mentioned above. As a student in Downtown Toronto, you see homeless people and beggars pretty often. I was barely approached by any except for this one time. I was walking outside of the Eaton Centre when a woman came towards me and blocked my way. My right side was against the wall but before I could step to my left and walk around her, the woman began to talk to me.
She said I was beautiful and offered me a sticker. Apparently she had just been going around all day giving people stickers for being beautiful. She was nice and well-dressed so I didn’t suspect that the next thing she would ask me is if I could spare a toonie or two (for anyone reading this who is not Canadian, she was asking for a couple of dollars).
Now usually I would tell a white lie and say I do not carry change. But I had already been with this woman for a few minutes and there was a chance things could go wrong quickly if I did not give in to what she was asking for. Obviously this interaction happened fast and I did not have a lot of time to think. I ended up having more than one toonie so that is what I gave to the woman. She gave me a “Thank you so much Dear” and I went on my way.
To be completely honest, I did not feel good about what happened. Sure, maybe she was homeless and I was able to help her out, but I feel that I was sort of tricked into it. Not only that, I was a student with no job, meaning the money I had was my parents’ money. As a family, we already donate to causes through our church, which we trust is reliable. I could only hope that the woman used what I gave her and what she was getting from others, for good reasons.
Many months down the road I came across a post online on “street smarts that everyone should know.” One part said that if someone ever tries to talk to you in public and you have a feeling they might ask for something you’re uncomfortable with, keep walking and do not stop. Once you stop or even slow down, you give that person the power. They know that they have your attention and are more likely to give them what they are seeking for.
Reading this post reminded me of my experience which is why I chose to write about it, in case any of you encounter a situation like this with a homeless person or beggar. Or perhaps feel that you are in a more serious situation than I was.
An alternative move that most people resort to when asked by homeless people or beggars for money, is to offer to buy them food or a drink instead. Like from a nearby convenience store or coffee shop. This way you have control of where your money goes and if the person denies it, they might have wanted to use the money for something else.
Encounter 2 with homeless person or beggar
My family and I were once on a trip in the United States when a woman asked my parents for money so she could buy food. Truthfully, my parents didn’t have any coins on them because we were travelling, so the woman walked away. After a few minutes they spotted the woman again and decided to give her food in a take-out container from the restaurant we ate at for lunch.
Apparently when my dad handed it to her, she said she could not eat it because she does not have any teeth, but took the food anyway. I was not with my parents since I was shopping with my cousins but when they told us the story we found it kind of funny that the woman asked for money to buy food, but said she could not eat the food we gave her. I guess it is understandable if she wanted to buy softer food that she could actually consume. However, it still made me wonder what her actual intentions were if my parents did end up giving her cash.
Parting from these two experiences, I personally still would not willingly give to a homeless person or beggar that asked for spare change. Some of you might agree with me, some of you might call me selfish. I think if you are able to, offer to purchase a drink or food for them instead of directly giving money. There are other ways to help those in need such as food banks or donating to organizations where your money is used to buy supplies and distribute them fairly to the homeless community. Be wise, because everyone knows in our society today, every little bit counts. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.