Why I don’t give money to the homeless

Matthew 6: 1-4 basically commands me, as a follower of Christ, to give to those in need.

After all, Jesus says, “when you give to the needy…” not “if”.

I think his views are pretty clear on the issue, right?

So why don’t I give money to homeless men and women on the street?

I’m pretty passionate about helping others. That’s why I blog. That’s why I go into schools and businesses. That’s why I give motivational talks and run seminars/workshops or whatever you want to call it on Performance, resilience and wellness.

And that’s exactly the reason why I don’t give money to the homeless.

You see, I’ve heard all sorts: “they’ll just spend the money on drugs and alcohol. That’s what got them into that mess in the first place. You’d basically be aiding them to destroy themselves.”

It was these words above that shook me and stopped me from giving money to homeless people on the streets of Manchester, Phoenix, anywhere and everywhere!

I remember visiting Pune, India in 2008 and being absolutely horrified by the abject poverty, dirt and conditions for families in that area. These are humans living in a state that no person should be accustomed to living in. It was so sad. And yet, even before leaving the plane…no, even before getting to the airport and boarding, we were told and continually reminded not to give to the beggars, especially the children, they said.

Wow. I remember not quite following that command and instantly regretting my decision. You give to one and then an army of youth descend upon you from…everywhere. I remember thinking, where were you all hiding ? I didn’t see you a moment ago!

It’s a similar situation in Nigeria. “Pure water! Pure water!” The children cry in their typical Nigerian accent that I so love as it reminds me of family … home. Nigeria is my motherland. My fatherland. And yet, even here, one act of kindness leaves you feeling as though you’ve not done enough and you can never do enough. You give to one and what seems like a hundred more young, seemingly desperate children descend upon you. Sigh.

So why don’t I give money to the homeless?

Because…how impractical! I don’t agree that every single homeless person I donate some spare change to will immediately rush into the nearest Tesco or Wal-Mart and spend it on bargain booze. But I do believe that some will. And I also believe that there are some so-called “career homeless” people. It’s a horrible thought. So here’s my giving. This is how I follow Jesus’ command and the pull of my heart to help and support: food, drink and toiletries.

Simple. If I walk past somebody in need, whether on the usually cold and wet streets of Manchester, but currently in the 20+ degree celsius heat, I offer them whatever they want. And do you know what I find (and this breaks my heart), they barely ask for anything at all.

They don’t want a lot.

Their usual response (and this is what I’ve found about 99% of the time) is “a hot drink please. Coffee or tea.” On the sunny days it’s usually, “a can of coke please”. They never ask for food and they’ve never flung my offer back in my face and said, “just give me money instead!”

I know the Holy Bible says, “be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” but today I will make an exception. Because yesterday I was chatting with some people who tried to use the argument that was used on me above as a reason to not give to those in need. But, the thing is, they hadn’t even thought of the alternative. So I love that having these sometimes difficult conversations can help others help others. And that’s what I’m here for.

I hope you’ll be encouraged to give now, whether it’s a cup of coffee and a pastry, can of coke or a bag of toiletries. Every little act of kindness will reverberate beyond you. And you’ll feel all the better for it.

I don’t give money. I give gifts. Hopefully that is enough.

Leave a Reply