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Giving money to homeless people
Daniela Posted at 2010/02/14 11:08am reply to

Daniela
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I was downtown last night waiting for my bf for a second, and a homeless man approached me. He asked me for any money or change because he was "starving" and wanted to "get a burger." I usually don't give money to homeless people because I don't have cash, and other times I don't think it's the best way to help. But last night I was feeling nice, and immediately worried that I did something wrong. That money probably went to supporting a cruel industry.

I only gave him 50 cents but a burger at a fast food place probably costs a dollar or something. I hated the idea of him getting a burger with my money, but people do this all the time, when we pay for things anywhere, that money goes to someone and that someone probably eats animals and dairy.

So where to draw the line?
nutmeggy Posted at 2010/02/14 11:42am reply to

nutmeggy
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I stick to homeless shelters or non profits that aim to provide housing, job assistance, life skills (I hate that term)... I also hate having this line of thinking, but I know some of them that stand at the intersections all over town aren't legit and I just can't deal with not knowing if my money is going to a scammer or not.

I figure that if you give money/food/items to an individual homeless person it probably won't do much in terms of solving the overall "problem" of homelessness, though it will help that individual. It's hard because I have heard that many of the homeless don't like the shelters and depending on where they go they can be taken advantage of, have things stolen from them, etc.. So it really is hard to decide where your money should go, but in the end I think it's probably better to give to an organization.

I try not to think about my money funneling down into providing a meal with meat to a homeless person because I think that's getting into more selfish territory. They need to eat and I don't think it's my place to dictate what they eat when they're in the position they are, and it's not like they have the means to cook a healthy meatless meal. Nor can they afford to choose vegan fast food (Terra Burger, etc.) or go to a sit down veg restaurant.
carleywolf Posted at 2010/02/14 1:06pm reply to

carleywolf
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I think about this problem too. As far as homelessness goes I agree with nutmeggy.

As for everything else, that is why it is so important for the vegan community to support each other in business. This way we know our money goes to support a cruelty free lifestyle.

Next time you need a graphic designer, lawyer, accountant, photographer, carpenter, musician, or any other independent entrepreneurial type service, look to hire a vegan to meet your needs. Not only will this keep your money out of the meat market, it will also keep it in our community. Like a fraternity or religious group operates within itself, it strengthens the community and helps sustain it. Also, if you own a business consider this when hiring employees.



zvezdy Posted at 2010/02/14 4:04pm reply to

zvezdy
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On a personal note, I don't give physical cash to anyone asking for it for food purposes unless they are vegan. Charity is different than consumer purchases though, being that you're not putting your money on a product, you're just giving it as a gift.

What I do is hand out fruit leathers. They're cheap and they make me feel less guilty happy
Rayray Posted at 2010/02/15 6:21pm reply to

Rayray
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I honestly don't think you need money to eat in Austin.  Between the dumpsters and the charities, Austin is full of free food.  You do however, need money to get beer, ciggies, etc.  I wouldn't feel guilty about not giving the homeless money.
mollyjade Posted at 2010/02/15 8:24pm reply to

mollyjade
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Not everyone is comfortable going to shelters/soup kitchens or eating from dumpsters.

I don't often give money to people on the street because I've had a few bad experiences. I don't like to take my wallet out when I'm outside and I rarely carry money anyway. But on the occasions I do give money directly to someone, it's a gift to that person and none of my business how they spend it.

We're fortunate to have the resources to think about cruelty, but I have no judgment for someone who's not in the same position as I am. People deserve to have enough to eat.
Craig? Posted at 2010/02/16 11:42am reply to

Craig?
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>when we pay for things anywhere, that money goes to someone and that someone probably eats animals and dairy.

I think that line pretty much sums up the debate.
Kristen Posted at 2010/02/16 2:25pm reply to

Kristen
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hell, even silk is owned by dean foods (which is one of the largest dairy farms in the US). lolz.

I agree with rayray; it really doesn't seem hard to get food here (hello, veggie heaven?). also, dont forget about food not bombs, serving up free vegan food. there is rarely any reason to give someone cash.
Jessica. Posted at 2010/02/16 10:41pm reply to

Jessica.
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You all should definitely check out food not bombs if you haven't already. It'd be great if there were more organizations like them all over town.
Rayray Posted at 2010/02/16 11:00pm reply to

Rayray
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I just figure that the type of people who are comfortable with asking random strangers for money would probably be the same people comfortable with going to soup kitchens, food pantries, veggie heaven, or hitting up that fabulous trash.  At least the ones who have ever asked me for a couple bucks didn't seem too shy.

And Oh yes, Food Not Bombs has my love.  We had our V-day date there.  Stuffing my face with brownies and banana bread was well worth the shivering.
mark Posted at 2010/02/19 8:38pm reply to

mark
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I definitely don't think people should feel bad not giving people money. It can be a little creepy.  I do, however find it interesting that people act so concerned about what these people are spending the money on.  It seems the reason that I hear most often about why people don't want to give money to homeless people is that they don't want them to spend it on alcohol or drugs.  Why should we care what they spend it on?  I don't care if my friends spend money on alcohol or drugs, why should I care if a guy who lives on the streets does?  In fact, I would think if anyone needs a drink it's these people.  If you don't want to give money to homeless people, by all means don't do it.  But don't try to tell me it's because you are looking out for their well-being.  It's most likely because you're just creeped out or you feel awkward and put on the spot.  
mark Posted at 2010/02/19 8:44pm reply to

mark
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Oh no!  I just realized that I'm one of those people who only posts when I have something critical to say!  I'm not actually that judgmental, I just don't post all the posi stuff.  

Hmmm....what to say that isn't critical?  Food not Bombs is great.  Dumpster diving is great.  Vegans are great.

except for the judgmental ones.

they suck.

oops.
weigand Posted at 2010/02/19 11:06pm reply to

weigand
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There was a reporter once who did a piece about homeless people for a news outfit of some sort. He followed the supposedly homeless people back to their cars and then back to their apartments and interviewed them. They sometimes lived much better lifestyles than people with normal jobs. I recall one of the homeless guys was seen driving away in his porsche or corvette or something.

When asked about it, the "homeless" people typically said that they make better money hanging out on street corners begging for money than they had ever made in normal, 9-5 jobs. I heard one guy say he made $50K, another said $80K,  another was more like $35K per year.  And they work whenever they want and often go home if they've made enough that day.

They said they don't feel bad about doing it. They say they're performing a much needed service.  They alleviate peoples' guilt. People give them money, and it makes the people feel good. That's their service. They have to dress and act the part, and to them it is an act. They see themselves as playing a role.

I'd say that most people out there on the street corners are either scammers like that or people with mental problems who are afraid of shelters and programs to give them job training. Most of the real homeless people have already found the shelters and places to get free meals. The cops probably try to help them out and know the stories of everyone out there on the street.

- Steve
mollyjade Posted at 2010/02/19 11:54pm reply to

mollyjade
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>There was a reporter once who did a piece about homeless people for a news outfit of some sort. He followed the supposedly homeless people back to their cars and then back to their apartments and interviewed them. They sometimes lived much better lifestyles than people with normal jobs. I recall one of the homeless guys was seen driving away in his porsche or corvette or something.
>
>When asked about it, the "homeless" people typically said that they make better money hanging out on street corners begging for money than they had ever made in normal, 9-5 jobs. I heard one guy say he made $50K, another said $80K,  another was more like $35K per year.  And they work whenever they want and often go home if they've made enough that day.
>
>They said they don't feel bad about doing it. They say they're performing a much needed service.  They alleviate peoples' guilt. People give them money, and it makes the people feel good. That's their service. They have to dress and act the part, and to them it is an act. They see themselves as playing a role.
>
>I'd say that most people out there on the street corners are either scammers like that or people with mental problems who are afraid of shelters and programs to give them job training. Most of the real homeless people have already found the shelters and places to get free meals. The cops probably try to help them out and know the stories of everyone out there on the street.
>
> - Steve

I'm sure there are scammers out there, but there are also a lot of people who just don't have the health, people skills, or mental capacity to hold a job. And the same things that keep them from being able to hold down a job may also keep them from following the rules at shelters. In addition to that, street people are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to civil rights. They're far more likely to experience violence or abuse (especially the women) than the average person. Which can make them avoid shelters.

Like I said, I don't often give money to people on the street. But brushing the majority of street people off as scammers ignores a lot of real problems.
peter Posted at 2010/02/20 12:49am reply to

peter
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>I'm sure there are scammers out there, but there are also a lot of people who just don't have the health, people skills, or mental capacity to hold a job. And the same things that keep them from being able to hold down a job may also keep them from following the rules at shelters. In addition to that, street people are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to civil rights. They're far more likely to experience violence or abuse (especially the women) than the average person. Which can make them avoid shelters.
>
>Like I said, I don't often give money to people on the street. But brushing the majority of street people off as scammers ignores a lot of real problems.

I agree.  And Steve, keep in mind that that report not only reflects what those few people do, but what the reporter/producer/corporation wanted you to think about the issue.  I don't doubt that there are a ton of scammers out there, but it sucks that they are out there ruining the image of panhandlers for whoever really needs help.

And Mark, it matters because by funding their addiction, you're enabling it.  Plus, I'd like to avoid funding those industries if I can, but that's my personal opinion.

So do I give money to panhandlers?  I haven't in a while, for a few reasons: 1) I don't get out a lot, and if I do, it's usually not in areas that tend to have a lot of panhandlers on the street - it's not that I avoid them, I'm just not usually in those areas; 2) I don't usually carry cash on me; and 3) I don't really have a lot of money to spare - I've been a broke college student for way too long.  I have given in the past, though, and I might again in the future, but it will probably be in the form of vegan food.  Homelessness is a blunt and terrible statement on the priorities of our society - they're seen as a nuisance, not people; they starve and OD while rich people live in ridiculously lavish comfort.  The solution to the problem has to be cultural and political - charity alone won't cut it.  Sadly, I don't see any changes coming any time soon.
VeganBrian Posted at 2010/02/20 1:27am reply to

VeganBrian
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I give money to the one panhandler I see often on riverside. I feel like he's a neighborhood mascot. he likes Woody Guthrie and my dog so he's cool by me.

I do know that whole foods gives a lot of their excess stuff to local shelters and whatever so I do believe that many of the folks who access such services probably eat from whole foods way more often than I do. Good for them!
ahhhlookout Posted at 2010/02/20 9:35am reply to

ahhhlookout
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>I definitely don't think people should feel bad not giving people money. It can be a little creepy.  I do, however find it interesting that people act so concerned about what these people are spending the money on.  It seems the reason that I hear most often about why people don't want to give money to homeless people is that they don't want them to spend it on alcohol or drugs.  Why should we care what they spend it on?  I don't care if my friends spend money on alcohol or drugs, why should I care if a guy who lives on the streets does?  In fact, I would think if anyone needs a drink it's these people.  If you don't want to give money to homeless people, by all means don't do it.  But don't try to tell me it's because you are looking out for their well-being.  It's most likely because you're just creeped out or you feel awkward and put on the spot.  


I agree with most of this.  Tho I don't give homeless people money because I am creeped out or awkward.  I give money usually only to young traveling kids cos I was one once. And I don't care if they buy food or  heroin.  I am totally not going to lose ANY sleep thinking about it.  I don't think it is my place to micromanage how my fellow humans live their lives.  I do what I can and that is that.
Rayray Posted at 2010/02/20 3:57pm reply to

Rayray
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I guess I ought to say that I do give money to homeless people if I have it.  I just don't think they need it for food and I wouldn't feel guilty about not giving it to them.  
weigand Posted at 2010/02/20 6:59pm reply to

weigand
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>I'm sure there are scammers out there, but there are also a lot of people who just don't have the health, people skills, or mental capacity to hold a job. And the same things that keep them from being able to hold down a job may also keep them from following the rules at shelters. In addition to that, street people are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to civil rights. They're far more likely to experience violence or abuse (especially the women) than the average person. Which can make them avoid shelters.
>
>Like I said, I don't often give money to people on the street. But brushing the majority of street people off as scammers ignores a lot of real problems.


Yep, that echoes what I said above.

Basically, there are scammers out there. Not all of the panhandlers are scammers, but a lot are.  The rest are people who have "issues" and don't want to go to the shelters to get food, sleep in a bed, and get access to job training.  That's what I said.

Who knows what percentage of the people out there are the scammers and who aren't.  Anyone know of any statistics on that?

- Steve
nutmeggy Posted at 2010/02/20 9:05pm reply to

nutmeggy
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I think it's virtually impossible to document something like that..
weigand Posted at 2010/02/20 9:17pm reply to

weigand
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>I think it's virtually impossible to document something like that..

It's why I have it on my list of things to do to actually follow a sampling of Austin homeless back to wherever they go and interview them. It's really the only way. As someone here already pointed out, you can't trust what the media says because they're trying to get ratings. This has been something I've wanted to do for a long time now.

- Steve
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