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  #1  
Old Sep 18, '12, 6:55 pm
chazk728 chazk728 is offline
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Default How to respond to the homeless

Where I live there are people of different ages that hold signs such as "Homeless...anything helps" near the highway exits. What is a Catholic response to these individuals? I feel guilty not giving them money, it feels awkward to give them anything else, if I do give them money I feel foolish because I'm not sure if I should be doing that. I guess I don't really know these people and what they really need. What is the right way to act?
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  #2  
Old Sep 18, '12, 8:28 pm
FLGreg FLGreg is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

In my personal experience, most of the sign holders are scammers. It is better to give a donation to the local Catholic Charities and know that your money is going to a worthy cause. NEVER give cash to someone on the street. I know it is hard to do that so I keep a number of $5.00 “gift cards” for Subway or McDonalds in my truck. That way, I can give them a meal rather than handing out cash that they might be using to buy drugs/alcohol.

I saw a “60 Minutes” episode a long time ago where they followed a “homeless guy” on the streets of NYC that was clearing 100K a year as a “street person” while living on the Upper East Side.
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  #3  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:02 pm
George Stegmeir George Stegmeir is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

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Originally Posted by FLGreg View Post
In my personal experience, most of the sign holders are scammers. It is better to give a donation to the local Catholic Charities and know that your money is going to a worthy cause. NEVER give cash to someone on the street. I know it is hard to do that so I keep a number of $5.00 “gift cards” for Subway or McDonalds in my truck. That way, I can give them a meal rather than handing out cash that they might be using to buy drugs/alcohol.

I saw a “60 Minutes” episode a long time ago where they followed a “homeless guy” on the streets of NYC that was clearing 100K a year as a “street person” while living on the Upper East Side.
I agree! I live in the East Village neighborhood in NYC. After a while, you get to recognize the professional beggars and junkies who prey largely on the tourists who frequent our area.
On one street corner of a major thoroughfare, there are numerous "homeless" who wash and wipe windshields at the red light and then demand a tip. Not too long ago, I picked up almost $5.00 in pennies that were lying in the street, sidewalk and gutter. They had been thrown there by the bums who couldn't be bothered with them!
I have learned that if you want to do something, if they say they are hungry, offer to take them to a nearby restaurant and pay for their meal, as long as they eat it in the restaurant.9 out of 10 times the begger will turn you down.
The only way to give alms anywhere is to donate to the poor box in church or to Catholic Charities, or the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Then you know that the genuinely poor are getting your money.
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  #4  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:38 pm
starryheart starryheart is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

Quote:
Originally Posted by FLGreg View Post
In my personal experience, most of the sign holders are scammers. It is better to give a donation to the local Catholic Charities and know that your money is going to a worthy cause. NEVER give cash to someone on the street. I know it is hard to do that so I keep a number of $5.00 “gift cards” for Subway or McDonalds in my truck. That way, I can give them a meal rather than handing out cash that they might be using to buy drugs/alcohol.

I saw a “60 Minutes” episode a long time ago where they followed a “homeless guy” on the streets of NYC that was clearing 100K a year as a “street person” while living on the Upper East Side.
The gift cards are a great idea! I never thought of that!
I also say a small prayer for that person.
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  #5  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:40 pm
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

I spent three decades in law enforcement dealing with such individuals. They all know where the bona fide charities are - and you notice that they are not there. Oftentimes, it is because those charities will not distribute alcohol and drugs. Certainly, there are some who are truly needy, but the help they need is often spiritual rather than financial. As well, some been seen exchanging leg braces when their "shift" is over. The local news channel followed one woman and found that she had a rather nice vehicle parked just a few blocks away.

How about printing cards with the address and phone of the local food bank and other charitable organizations, and handing those out?
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  #6  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:43 pm
Rhubarb Rhubarb is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

Luke 6:30-36?
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  #7  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:52 pm
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

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Originally Posted by Rhubarb View Post
Luke 6:30-36?
Yes this is what i was thinking

I usually give a dollar when I can which is almost always

but I would like to maybe print out some cards to local charities or even a prayer card for them so I can give that as well!
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  #8  
Old Sep 18, '12, 9:54 pm
FLGreg FLGreg is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

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Originally Posted by starryheart View Post
The gift cards are a great idea! I never thought of that!
I also say a small prayer for that person.
I don't know if it made any difference but I put a clear address label on the back of the "gift card" with a quote from Isaiah 41:10 - "fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand".
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  #9  
Old Sep 18, '12, 10:10 pm
FLGreg FLGreg is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

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Originally Posted by Rhubarb View Post
Luke 6:30-36?
True ... then I read 2 Thessalonians 3:10–11:

"For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work"

How do you reconcile these two passages?
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  #10  
Old Sep 18, '12, 11:25 pm
Rhubarb Rhubarb is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

Quote:
Originally Posted by FLGreg View Post
True ... then I read 2 Thessalonians 3:10–11:

"For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work"

How do you reconcile these two passages?
I guess there are a few ways to answer this question. Being this is a Catholic forum, I guess the answer is that the Church reconciles these two passages, or leaves it up to the individual if there's no hard teaching. I'm not sure if there IS a hard teaching on this matter.

I'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies, Gandhi, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." I'm sure Saint Paul (though there is scholarly questions if he truly penned the book) had a pretty good reason for writing what he did in 2 Thessalonians, they were trying to start real communities. But no one wears wrist bands that say "What Would Saint Paul Do?", it's all about Jesus. One quote is red text, supposedly directly from the mouth of Christ Himself. The other is not. I think Christ is pretty clear in multiple places that we ought to be charitable, even if the person who we're giving it to is undeserving.

For me personally, I try to keep a few spare singles on me whenever I go out in case I'm approached. I know some of the people I've given to are scammers, sure. But I can't know for sure if they all are. And refusing people who need help because SOME scammers fake it is a text-book part-to-whole fallacy. I figure at worst, it means I can't afford to eat out one week. But I don't blame someone who has kids or other obligations who can't afford to give.
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  #11  
Old Sep 18, '12, 11:29 pm
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhubarb View Post
Luke 6:30-36?
Quote:
Originally Posted by mab23 View Post
Yes this is what i was thinking

I usually give a dollar when I can which is almost always

but I would like to maybe print out some cards to local charities or even a prayer card for them so I can give that as well!
We are not excused from using prudential judgment. In biblical times, the needy were readily apparent, and there were not the drug and alcohol problems as we see them today. I know that a good percentage of our cash donations go directly to the local crack dealer, or meth dealer, or liquor store. Look in the bushes adjacent to their favorite spots: a recyclers dream of cans and bottles. This does not apply to 100% of them, but think what their mother feels as she sees them collecting financing to continue their habits.

Virtually all of these people know where the genuine, government and Church supported and Church-run charities are. They do not go there. They do not want work, housing, food or clothes. They want your cash. We must ask ourselves why.

Our Priest sends them to the local outreach ministry, rather than give them cash.

I'm sure that he is familiar with Luke.
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  #12  
Old Sep 19, '12, 3:56 am
broncosfan25 broncosfan25 is offline
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

I think it would be a mistake to assume that most homeless people are scammers. It might be true that many of them have drug and/or alcohol problems, but that does not mean that they are unworthy of our love, prayers, and support.

Personally, I volunteer for a organization called 'Project Open Hands' that operates in the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, an area that has one of the largest homeless populations in the country. The main thrust of the organization is delivering meals to people with serious illnesses - it's a bit like Meals on Wheels, except we are on foot and in a large city. Of course, many of the homeless do not qualify for this program. Often, when the other volunteers and I are making our rounds, we will also carry sandwiches and water bottles to hand out to people on the streets. I can tell you from first-hand experience that even if a homeless person has a drug or alcohol addiction, that does not mean they will not accept a sandwich. It's not uncommon for me to give out 20 sandwiches in only a few minutes. Another time, we gave out socks instead. At first, looking at my bag of socks, I thought "How am I ever going to get rid of these?" They were dirty, mismatched, and ugly. It turns out that the socks went even quicker than the sandwiches.

I guess my point is that it's always better to lean toward the side of compassion and leave the judging to God. It's probably not a great idea to just hand out money, but I like some of the other ideas that people have mentioned, like gift cards. And of course, charities like the ones mentioned above are great too, although I think it would be a mistake to think that they have the power to help everyone. I know in San Francisco you often have to line up for soup kitchens or homeless shelters hours before being served - it's kind of hard to get a job in you have to spend all day in line at the homeless shelter.

God bless!
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  #13  
Old Sep 19, '12, 4:09 am
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

I would not give cash as I am afraid it would just fuel a habit or addiction they may have. When I was working in NY, I would buy a sandwich or something and give t to the person.
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  #14  
Old Sep 19, '12, 4:12 am
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

Quote:
Originally Posted by chazk728 View Post
Where I live there are people of different ages that hold signs such as "Homeless...anything helps" near the highway exits. What is a Catholic response to these individuals? I feel guilty not giving them money, it feels awkward to give them anything else, if I do give them money I feel foolish because I'm not sure if I should be doing that. I guess I don't really know these people and what they really need. What is the right way to act?
It is not for us to judge who is or is not worthy or is or is not genuine.

Luke 10:25-37


The Parable of the Good Samaritan25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


What does it matter if someone is taking advantage of us? What is the consequence?Nothing.

What does it matter to not help those in need? Everything
We are to do as Jesus taught us and love our brothers and sisters and help all our neighbours.
Treat each of them as though they are Jesus Himself.

Faith and charity should come naturally to each of us.
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Old Sep 19, '12, 4:34 am
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Default Re: How to respond to the homeless

This is indeed a difficult question and one that we all face at some point in our lives. In fact I would say that it is one of the more common "tests" of our faith.

A couple of Bible passages have been mentioned.
Luke 6:30-36....2 Thessalonians 3:10–1 to these I would add James 2:15-16
15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
It seems that the question is less about whether to give but rather about what to give and in what way.

I'm not impressed with claims - even if true - that many are scammers or they will use the money for drugs etc...For the act of charity - the giving - is in no way diminished if the person who receives then misuses the gift. After all, who among us can say that we have properly used every gift that God has given to us.
So - withholding charity from a street beggar based on an assumption that the person is a scammer or, in some other way, not worthy I do not find legitimately Christian.

That said...I DO agree with some of the comments about giving something other than cash. Scripture does not demand that our gift be cash. Luke mentions cloaks and shirts. James mentions "things needed for the body".

We are told to Love others as we love ourselves....in Mt it states:
So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
So maybe the question is...How would we wish to be treated if we were homeless?
Tied to that might be - If I were homeless, what would I be trying to do about it?
Then we might take that examination of ourselves and how we would wish to be treated and apply that to how we deal with those who beg from us.

I'm not offering answers here - because frankly I have none. I am no better than others in this and perhaps worse than many. Just some more things to consider as we examine ourselves in the light of the Law of Love....

Peace
James
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