Truth About Giving Money to Homeless People

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If you feel the urge to give money to a homeless person and you feel safe, then it’s perfectly fine, and your act of kindness can provide basic life-saving needs that only cash can buy.

People experiencing homelessness are human beings. We should treat them with respect. But too often, we view the homeless person asking for money as a bum or con artist. We blame homelessness on the person when their situation could be caused by a variety of reasons: lack of affordable housing, lack of a living wage, or some kind of trauma.

“Panhandlers use money to purchase drugs or alcohol.” This is also a common belief stopping people from giving money to panhandlers. Let’s think about that: if you’re going to the bathroom behind a dumpster in a McDonald’s parking lot, life sucks. You might as well have a beer!

We are not advocating for alcohol abuse in any way. We are simply trying to provide a little perspective. It’s hard to be homeless. Alcohol and drugs offer an escape from the pain. We often look the other way when people we know abuse drugs: The soccer mom who hits the bottle to get through the day; your brother-in-law who drinks a case of beer on the weekend; the lawyer who smokes the pipe filled with crack; and the postal worker popping a few pills to help make their rounds. But when it’s a person experiencing homelessness, we look down upon them.

Homeless People Need Money for Basic Needs

There are things only money can buy. Most homeless people only receive food stamp benefits, which do not allow the purchase of tampons, medicine, toilet paper, vitamins, pet food, tents, tarps, hand warmers, socks, or hygiene items. Often your gift of a few dollars can mean the difference between life and death for an unhoused person trying to survive.

The real truth is in this great country of ours, no one should have to beg for money. We must make preventing and solving homelessness a priority. Your voice can help end homelessness. Click here to tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.

Mark Horvath: Executive Producer
Marijane Miller: Producer & Writer
Blap Studios: Animation Producer
Alex Gasaway: Sound Design

More videos on homelessness:

How to Talk to Kids about Homelessness

BEST Items to Give Homeless People

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Invisible People


We imagine a world where everyone has a place to call home. Until then, we strive to be the most trusted source for homelessness news, education and advocacy.

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