A soft-rock hit for Phil Collins back in 1989 asks us if we are responsible for the homeless: should we give change to a beggar?
This is a challenging question with no clear answer.
As a society, as individuals and collectively through government, we should help those less fortunate, but for now, will our loose change make a difference? We even wonder if such a contribution can make matters worse, encouraging self-destructiveness through drug dependency short term, and dependency and laziness, longer term.
Maybe spare change doesn’t get at the root of the problem. There are deeper political, social and economic factors behind why someone is asking for assistance.
Further, are the homeless really homeless, and do you trust that the person is not scamming in the manner of a street person entrepreneur? Perhaps giving them a sandwich instead of money is the way to go.
Besides, all modern countries have a large collection of social programs and services to assist these people. And maybe you feel a homeless man or woman should be getting help this way. Sure, government can’t be as personal as human interaction on the street corner but most governments spend more on social programs than anything else. Likewise, non-profit charities are working hard in the trenches of poverty.
We don’t always give to the poor for altruistic reasons, either. Some may toss a few dollars into a tin cup out of guilt for their affluence. Perhaps this is humiliating to the recipient, for affirming the economic superiority of the donor.
Overall, there may be no way to tell whether a donation is going to do what you intend it to accomplish. It’s about trust and faith.
Phil Collins sang, “Oh, think twice.” Do you give change when approached?