I occasionally give someone on the street some money — usually a $5 bill.
Linda A Robinson, PhD

Like you, I have on various occasions, over the last couple decades, given money to people that are struggling in poverty, have no place to call home, and no money to buy food. I have given out as much as a $20 bill at times when I feel the situation called for it (like when I was looking at an old man with a large dog, both of them very obviously hungry and uncomfortable …standing beside the highway near the on-ramp to the freeway, with a sign asking for a little help to feed his dog. I thought $20 would get his dog food and get him a meal. I’ve been feeding the homeless in this way for a long time.

I have often got “good advice” from well meaning relatives and others to give homeless people food, but not money for food…to take them to a MacDonalds and buy them a cheap meal. I’ve always wondered how these people can imagine that a starving homeless person would be willing to follow me to a fastfood place. I suppose they might, but I think it’s more dangerous to be dragging a hungry homeless person (to say nothing of his dog?) around behind me, just so I can “do the right thing” and give him food.. and not give him money that he might use to buy alcohol or drugs.

I believe that people who are truly starving will first buy food & drink with money they get, and after that, might get some other necessity, like maybe bandaids, or kleenex, or a razor… something they desparately need. I suppose some might be so downtrodden and despairing to buy alcohol to deaden their pain, but I don’t think most homeless people would do that. I think it’s unrealistic, and even arrogant, to buy food instead of giving money for food to a hungry person in this country. I think they deserve to be treated with compassion, and with a bit of dignity, being given the money they need, with the expectation that they will spend it sensibly.

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