Vicki Robin

Frugality and the homeless

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2009 at 4:19 PM

On my walk home tonight, a homeless man asked me for a handout. I asked if he was hungry and he said yes.  But when I told him that I had homemade food at home that I’d be glad to bring to him, he politely declined. I’ve found that this is a common response. Yet many of us don’t want to give money to the homeless because we fear that it might be used for alcohol or drugs or something else unsavory. We feel conflicted, guilty … and often just hand over some bills. Yet is there a better response? I have struggled for years as to how to handle this situation and have come up with a solution that feels good to me: I offer food instead of money. I used to take the homeless person who wanted food to a local restaurant for take-out, but then I realized that was incongruent with my own values. I don’t take myself out to eat several times a week, so why would I want to buy that kind of expensive food (and generate that kind of waste) for someone else? I realized that I lived only two blocks from the city center and therefore could easily bring homecooked food to whomever needed it. (Whenever I travel though, I still revert to the take-out option). I recognize that the homeless have a legitimate need for money, and I know that offering food doesn’t address the conditions that make homelessness a continued reality in one of the richest nations in the world. But I feel good knowing that I’m doing my best to respond to a fellow citizen in need, but doing so within my means which maintains dignity for us both.

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  1. That’s a great idea. I also have had conflicting feelings especially when the person asking for handouts is lying to me about why they need the money. I’ll have to use that idea.

    Homelessness is a hard thing to deal with since a lot of people have mental issues and/or addictions and need more than a simple handout. I don’t know what else to do but give monies to organizations that have the expertise to deal with it. I guess I could also volunteer my time….

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