Homeless in DC… possibly.

Amalah had an interesting post yesterday about something she witnessed in Georgetown, and after all the flamefests we’ve had here over comments made about the homeless, I thought I’d call attention to it.

More interesting than the story (after all, who doesn’t occasionally suspect that they’re being scammed?) are the comments on the post- people who are soured on ever giving anything to the homeless because of bad experiences they’ve had, people who steadfastly continue to give because kindness is kindness, no matter how illegitimately obtained, people who have resorted to giving only food, to people who assume it’s none of their business what the homeless spend the money they’ve been given on.

What do you guys think? How do you react when a homeless person asks for money? Let’s try not to make it a flamewar- I’m interested in what you think about the situation, not what you think about people who disagree with you, mmmkay?

5 Comments so far

  1. wayan (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 3:22 pm

    The Washington City Paper did a great cover story on the income streams of DC homeless in 2002 ( http://tinyurl.com/lxfhw if you wanna pay the $3 for the back copy). From those that drive in from middle-class homes to those homeless and living on the edge, there is a wide difference in who makes what and spends it where.

    I say save your money, use it and your time to lobby for better housing and job training programs. Giving a buck only begets begging.

  2. Mik (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

    Wow. Interesting piece, not to mention the comments.

    When I lived in Boston, there was one man I’d see every morning on my way from South Station to my office in Post Office Square. At first, I started taking him a cup of coffee, I’d stand and speak to him for a little while and learnt (through volunteering at a shelter) of his story. I’d give him a few bucks here and there, and there’d be times I’d see him at the shelter. When I learnt of his death (he froze whilst sleeping on the street the winter of ’02/’03 because his usual shelter didn’t have enough beds), I vowed to volunteer more. I’m sad to say that I have neglected to uphold that vow.

    My office does some work with So Others May Eat, donating items, money and time, but it nevers seems to be enough.

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 4:35 pm

    It’s hard to tell those who really need the money to avoid starvation and those who are scammers. Generally, I don’t give to panhandlers as I feel it encourages the behavior, but as Mik said, So Others May Eat and the DC Food Kitchen are great places to get involved with, not to mention DC Modest Needs, as this’ll help some folks get by and avoid going down that path.

  4. Evil (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

    It is well known that the bums in front of Wiesmillers in Georgetown on 35th are frauds. They get picked up every day by their wives in their nice cars.

    Go check them out. They’ll give you a “maybe on the way back man” as you go to buy your Chicken Madness.

  5. maia (unregistered) on July 25th, 2006 @ 5:14 pm

    EVIL, It is funny you write that. Several years ago, I was running from the Canal up to 34th Street (heading north). While at the light at 34th and M, a gentleman wearing a nice FILA sweatsuit took off hiw watch, placed it in his pocket, took off the top and rolled it up, placed it on the stair by the Ukrainian Embassy, turned to me and said, “It is time to start panning”. As the light changed, he had the chutzpah to ask for a buck (keep in mind, I have witnessed his transformation, and am in the process of running).

    I pretty much gave up giving money to beggars, and only donate to reputable organizations.

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