Saturday, April 23, 2011

Helping the Street Beggars

So you pull up to a traffic light, and there he is, the "homeless" person begging for a hand-out.

You intuitively know it's a scam, but you worry that he really does need help. You either pull out a dollar or two and give it to him, wondering if you're contributing to drug/alcohol abuse, or you look the other way and rush through the light when it turns green, feeling guilty the whole time.

Here's a possible solution, although it would require several groups to cooperate.

A church could provide debit cards, in the denominations of $1, $2, $5, and $20. These cards could be used at participating grocery stores, Wal-Marts, filling stations, city utility/tax offices, the city's bus system, etc, but could not be used for cigarettes, alcohol, lottery tickets, etc.

These cards would then either be pre-sold or assigned to members of the public, and when you pull up next to a street beggar, you could give him one of these cards. If the card is pre-sold to you, then you'd need do nothing further. If the card is assigned, your bank account would be charged when the card is used. Any cards not used within 6 months would be considered a donation to the church's benevolence work.

(Lots of tweaks could be made to this plan, but this is the basic idea.)

Now you can give money to the beggar, knowing the money won't be used for "vice" products (I'm sure the beggars could trade/sell their cards, but it adds a level of difficulty to them to do so). And if the beggars in town get most of their donations via a card, they'll either use the cards as intended (or work around the system, unfortunately), or they would leave town to find one that donates cash instead of cards.

Would this plan (or something similar) work?

1 comment:

Sheri said...

I worry about giving a homeless person money, not just because they might by tobacco or alcohol, but because I don't want to make it easier for them to continue in the lifestyle they are in.

A homeless woman often sat behind the store I work at. I never gave her a dime. But I did always stop and say hello and talk to her for a moment. I didn't see her for a long time. Then she came into the store.I did not recognize her,because she was all cleaned up--not fancy but decently dressed and presented. After explaining who she was, she told me she got tired of the way she was living and straightened up her life. She has a job and an apartment. She said she lived on the other side of town and has no car yet. But she took the bus all the way to my store just to thank me for always being so kind to her when she was homeless. I hope my kindness reminded her that she was a valuable person who deserved a better life. If I had given her food or money, would I have only prolonged the time before she would come to her senses and turn her life around? The prodical son had to live with the pigs and covet their food before he came to his senses.