On March 31st, 2017, the HuffPost released an article written by Mark Hovarth. This article was talking about the idea that giving homeless people money is okay if you feel comfortable.
He constructs the article talking about how to give them money and even goes as far as to say why. He argues the idea that it’s wrong to believe that they would go and spend the money on drugs and alcohol and even if they do-their homeless, so why not? (He wasn’t advocating it, but you know, something to take the edge off).
And I can respect that opinion, you know, the “Well it’s not my business” mindset.
I can, however, give you two reasons why it will most certainly hurt to give cash at will.
1. Drugs and Alcohol are often not permitted in shelters geared toward homeless people.
After spending two years volunteering in one (a homeless shelter), I can tell you why.
Frequently, when purchasing alcohol or drugs of sorts, the person may become rather disruptive. This can cause a problem for the others staying, as it’s both disruptive and unfair. If the patron who consumed the alcohol or drugs fails to abide by set rules and proves to be disruptive and show disrespect toward others, then they will be asked to leave-thus furthering the dangers of the streets, taking away their opportunity of a fairly (no place is entirely safe) place to sleep.
2. Mental Illness
The National Institute of Health released an article on the effects of severe mental illness and the effects that the substances have on them.
“Compared to controls, people with severe mental illness were about 4 times more likely to be heavy alcohol users (four or more drinks per day); 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana regularly (21 times per year); and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs at least 10 times in their lives. The greatest increases were seen with tobacco, with patients with severe mental illness 5.1 times more likely to be daily smokers. This is of concern because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.” (National Institute of Health, 2014)
Naturally, you might be wondering how this affects the idea of giving money to those who are going through a hard time/are on the streets.
According to SAMHSA,
“According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had a serious mental illness (SMI), including 2.5 million adults living below the poverty line.” (SAMSHA, 2016)
Of course, the argument could then be “You can’t assume that everybody is struggling with substance abuse”. However, you yourself (if you argued that sometimes it doesn’t quite matter), just admitted, that even if they buy the liquor, it could help. Not to mention, I myself, after volunteering in the area for a few short months, had gotten an idea on where you could pick up drugs (i.e sneakers on telephone lines), and by driving in the part of town below the poverty line, you could easily witness a few drug handoffs. Listen hard enough to those in that area, and you’ll hear where you can buy anything fairly cheap.
So now, you’re probably wondering, what am I supposed to do, how can I help?
And I have answers for that.
–Keep actual snacks fairly handy. Maybe a few water bottles/Gatorade in your car, a small thing of snacks to hand out. If you’re out walking the city, consider gift cards. Though they can be traded, the chance of them doing that, rather than getting something to eat is smaller.
—Educate yourself on the local organizations that exist to help those who are struggling.
—- When coming in contact with someone who’s struggling, gauge the situation. If they’re homeless, find a way to assist them in that area. If they’re struggling financially but have a place to stay, direct them to an organization that would help them with what they’re struggling with.
—–If you have extra time, call the place for them, let the organization know that you have someone who needs help, and turn the situation over to the,.
Overall, the mentioned options are much better than handing out cash. Making sure you know of the places that there are to help, and giving them food and water are key.
HOWEVER, do not put yourself in a situation that you might feel uncomfortable in. This is supposed to help the other person, but you don’t want to hurt yourself in the process.
That being said, what are your thoughts on this particular topic? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
Horvath, Mark. “Giving Money to Homeless People Is Okay.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 31 Mar. 2017, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/giving-money-to-homeless-people-is-okay_b_58de9ef7e4b0ca889ba1a57b?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAJq84-pEAYZ88Dy6xTWunpX3i0zFlrdhbPTbbziBsIxgx_h1wcHifi6gqUh4vYwctqAkRKZzd2XoXz6jgspi_BbgyY8GfqlxZvbTULA5kYxu-Pmhl3Z5Sl2EbOqjREVSGGUz9ceCOYSAh3ArbMvDt6079LHrnJLN8Ov1nLiyAMnV.
“SERIOUS MENTAL ILLNESS AMONG ADULTS BELOW THE POVERTY LINE.” Serious Mental Illness Among Adults Below the Poverty Line, 15 Nov. 2016, http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2720/Spotlight-2720.html.
“Severe Mental Illness Tied to Higher Rates of Substance Use.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 Sept. 2015, http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/severe-mental-illness-tied-higher-rates-substance-use.