Should I give money to homeless people?

Should I give money to homeless people?

Dear Kindlings,

I sometimes give my change to the homeless or beggars, but it often crosses my mind whether money is the best way to help them. I want to help those in need, but surely there are better ways to help the homeless in the long term than giving them my spare change. Should I be handing out my spare change?

- Anon

should I give money to homeless people

Dearest Anon, 

You have a very valid question, even though it's a difficult one to ask. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to your question. Whether to give money or not is up to your personal choice, however do consider the following:

  • You don't have control over where the money is spent
  • It is impolite and dehumanising to ignore someone, rather than politely say no
  • Donating to a charity instead often means that some money does go to administration etc.
  • An alternative, such as giving them food may not be the thing they need the most at that time

It is very important to acknowledge that experiencing homelessness is a symptom of wider social issues, so you are justified in looking for solutions that are more long term. However that said, spare change can mean a hot meal, a blanket or a small item of clothing, which could make all the difference between a bad day and an awful one

We've therefore put together 5 tips from Homelessness Australia to help you make a real difference to the lives of those experiencing homelessness.

how to help people experiencing homelessness

1. Volunteer

If you have the time, a great way to make a real difference is to volunteer. You can help out at emergency shelters, drop-in centres, soup kitchens or job training programs.

Australians can find opportunities at GoVolunteer

US citizens can search for volunteering opportunities to help the homeless here.

UK Kindlings can check out the national volunteering database

2. Educate yourself and others

Find out more about homelessness in your area, the reasons for it, what age those experiencing homelessness are and the root causes. For Aussie Kindlings, check out these resources and fact sheets from Homelessness Australia. 

3. Show respect

Those experiencing homelessness are people like you and me, and you don't know their story. Show them respect by acknowledging them rather than ignoring them, don't make assumptions about them and treat them like you would any other person.

4. Donate money to a relevant organisation

If you don't have the time or skills to help out by volunteering, donate to organisations who do. This might be through buying your coffee through a 'pay-it-forward' organisation, setting up a monthly donation, or participating in once-off campaigns.

Organisations can help with: 

  • accommodation services
  • collection and distribution of
    resources (food, clothing etc.)
  • advocacy services
  • advice
  • financial support
  • skills and employment services
  • health services

5. Donate resources

There are some great resource collection and distribution organisations that help deliver people the things they need to get by. Whether it's a coat in winter, soap and toiletries for a hot shower at a drop-in centre, books for education or fun, toys, or food, there are plenty of items we take for granted or may not use that can make a great difference to those experiencing homelessness.


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