Beggars on the street

This has probably been discussed, but forgive me…

What are your attitudes towards beggars on the street? Most I see are clean cut and (relatively) nicely dressed. Many are smoking while begging. Some I’ve seen with portable stereos and other such devices…

Those guys I tend to ignore any time I walk by them. And I know some aren’t actually homeless. (Some don’t pretend to be.) There is one man who stands around the Starbucks at the Arlington T station (for those familiar with Boston) who, although he claims to be homeless, actually lives in an apartment in the Back Bay (according to a friend of mine at Sbux who followed him home!)

Anyway…what are your attitudes towards helping those who seem to be legitimately homeless…those who look/smell like they haven’t bathed or shaved in a long time, etc. Are we to help them any time we see them? Occasionally? Or are we under no obligation at all? I once heard about a saint who would never refuse a beggar when he asked for alms “in the name of Jesus Christ.” And I have to admit, if a beggar says to me, “In the name of Jesus Christ, help me!” I don’t think I can refuse-but that’s never happened (I have had some get loud and angry because I didn’t give them money-as if they are entitled to it)

Always! But I think you already knew that, didn’t you :wink:

I stopped helping beggears.

I own a business, one of the things I’ve done for years is hire handicapped people or people down on their luck.

Used to be I’d see a guy holding a sign “WILL WORK FOR FOOD” and I’d pull over and offer a job. This story was repeated about a dozen times. In some cases I offered to drive them the mile or 2 to the warehouse for the job.

I’d see someone, I’d pull over and offer a job. EVERY TIME, and I mean every single time, they would turn me down saying they were not looking for jobs! I got into conversations with several of them and they were honest enough to admit they could make a couple hundred dollars a day (or more on a good day) all tax free. The same was true if they were men or women, if they had a sign, were “selling” pencils, etc.

Basically begging is their “profession” and it is what they want to to.

I know there are some out there who are truly needy, who are mentally disabled and can’t do better on their own, but I have not found any of those yet. Someday I hope I do because I have become very jaded by the “professional” beggars.

BTW, how is giving money to an alcoholic street beggar so he can buy a 1/5 of gin helping him/her :shrug:

Would it not be better to get them to a shelter?

I used to encounter derelicts who would panhandle for money, saying they hadn’t eaten in days. I would tell them the same thing, every time: “I won’t give you any money, but if you’re hungry, we’ll go to the closest McDonald’s; you can order anything you want, as much as you want, and I’ll pay for it.”

And every time, without fail, they would turn around and walk away.

They wanted the money for cheap booze or drugs.

Christ tells us simply: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42)

He tells us to lend and to expect nothing in return. He does not say “give to everyone who you judge to be worthy” or “give to everyone who really needs it and will spend the money well” but simply “give to everyone who begs from you”. If we only lend to get the good feeling of knowing that we’ve helped somebody, are we not being like the hypocrites who give alms to get the praises of men. Even if we only do it to get praise from our own conscience, that’s a form of hypocrisy. Give to all who beg from you, because our Lord says so.

At the same time, talk to these people, show them kindness, often that’s what’s needed more than money. As some posters have already said, some people can make a lot of money by begging, but throwing money at them does not in itself validate them as people, human contact is often much more important.

Having worked with the homeless, the reason many of them can’t get out of the cycle is that they don’t know what to do. Many of them have been raised in institutions and spent a long time in prison or juvenile hall. When they get out, they spend their time in soup kitchens and hostels, so when they do get an apartment to themselves, they don’t know what to do with it. That’s why many of them go back to the streets, it’s what they know and it’s where their friends are. The help we can give by talking, sharing the gospel, maybe getting to know where the labour exchanges and hostels and charity shelters are in our town so we can direct them to someone who can help, is worth far more than a few coins thrown into a hat.

You are making the assumption that many of these people are homeless. That is **not always a valid assumption **in many cases.

There are many thousands of street people who need our help and should get it. In fact they probably should be institutionalized and cared for by the state.

But there are many “Beggars on the street” who’s jobs it is is to beg professionally. They are not homelss and they are not necessarily drunks or mentally deficient. They are beggars because it is easy work and they can scam more money in a day or two than they can earn in a week a low-modest wage job.

Perhaps, FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES, we should separate out the true needy from the frauds who are professional beggars?


The last part says alot about our overall pay system, epically near and at the minimum wage levels. Pay should be high enough so people do not have to do this as a scam.

Now the others, the mentally ill ones, veterans, chemical dependent ones are also a sign that our society is ignoring them with social services. Some people dislike government help towards those people but it appears to be the most direct and effective way, with continuing help from private charities.

Sure makes you wonder about our society as a whole at times.

Father Groeschel says that instead of giving money to beggars, he gives coupons for a free McDonald’s hamburger.


I’m with you. Try giving those people the apple out of your lunch and watch their reaction. Some act almost insulted that you might offer them a real food item when they are supposedly so “hungry.”

I give money to St. Vincent Depaul’s and the homeless shelter at the gospel mission (even though it’s run by protestants), and I refer the beggars to those groups. Both are within walking distance from the prime begging areas in town.

I never do. I have been thinking about printing out directions to the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen and giving them that instead. I volunteer there sometimes and we serve individuals better and more food there than I eat! There’s also a shelter in the same location. The beggars usually just want money for alcohol and smokes, so giving them money usually hurts them rather then helps.

But simply raising minimum wages will not resolve the problem. My company pays above minimum wages, provides insurance and a retirement plan. We hire many unskilled workers, unfortunately many of them are virtually unable to read anything more than very simple words . . . and we ask the applicant the show proof of graduation from High School :eek:

I’m with you on this, but unfortunately the ACLU filed suit on behalf of many of the people who were in state and federal care and many of the people were turned out onto the streets. I believe that during the Carter administration more people were turned out than uder any other administration.

AWESOME IDEA. But unfortunately for the true needy, it only feeds them for a day. What about “teaching the man to fish . . .”

This may be the best idea because it could give them a place to get started over. If they make the effort they can get food and shelter and perhaps start over?

when my children and I spent our days in the university district downtown, this was the scenario we followed, since I wanted to teach them properly how to protect themselves (move to a crowded place like a restaurant) and how to respond to a request for food. If the person says please help I haven’t eaten, I say I don’t have change but I am on my way to McDonald’s (or whatever is closest) and we would be happy to have you join us for a meal. About half the time the panhandler would accept (who is going to turn down a hot cup of coffee on a cold Cleveland day?). The kids still joke about they guy who wanted a dozen extra syrups for his big breakfast.

since I served this “clientele” as a volunteer and PT paid administrator in several urban settings over the years, I can testify that no generalization we make about those we observe on the street will be true. Most are not truly homeless, but many are. Most are not looking to fund a drug or alcohol habit, but many are. Most are not dangerous, but many are. Most are not mentally ill to the extent they need supervision or medication, but many are. Most are men, but you don’t see the women and children much, but they are out there, and you will be seeing more and more of them.

because of the importance of charity, i do give something to people i see begging on the streets when they look like they could use it. i draw the line at young able-bodied-looking men, though.

however charity can also mean giving to a recognized charitable organization, so i wouldn’t presume to negatively judge those who don’t give directly to people on the street. they have their reasons.

when i give some money to a roughed-up looking person on the street who looks like they have nowhere to turn, i feel a little bit closer to god.

Melensdad, God bless you for your efforts! I struggle with severe mental illness and haven’t worked in like 16 or 17 years. Recently, on new medication I started doing better. I sure hope mental stability lasts for me this time. I’m touched that you would help out needy ones with jobs. I dream of being able to work again and have recently started filling out applications with no answers yet. I’m not very hopeful. I don’t have much of an employment history.


Good thing the Church doesn’t require us to take Jesus at his word (Christ tells us simply: “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42)).

Boy if we did that it would look like, well, socialism. Imagine sharing everything we have with whoever asks, needs or wants. If you were to extrapolate that idea to taxes, oh my. Imagine giving a portion of our wages for programs to help others, and not complaining about it or judging them.

Felt i had to jump into this conversation. As a school project, i had to place myself in an environment outside my norm. i stood with two homeless gentleman on a busy street corner in phila, with a sign saying pls help( i am not homeless, so did not want to pretend to be). the nature of my work has me in this location at 7 am or as late as 11pm. yes, they are truly homeless, i have seen their sleeping quarters which are a gas station trash overhang gentleman spent 22 years in prison, losing all contact with his daughter. the other is a former school teacher who is no longer medicated.AND NO, they are not doing this to make more money than a low paying job. in 6 hours, i made 17.83 and those two not quite as much. many of the homeless are on the streets due to the medicare wxclusionary act, which is also why many of the state homes have been closed. neither federal or state govt has to take responsibilty for 24 hour care with this law. the other fact is that when the largest retail employer- also the largest employer in the US- helps there employees sign up for federal assistance programs - since their wages are so low many employees are entitled to govt assistance- we as a country have a problem. MAKE ALL EMPLOYERS PROVIDE A FAIR WAGE AND SOME TYPE OF AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE.

Someone (can’t remember who–was it Bl. Mother Teresa?) said something to the effect of “The spiritual health of a society can be seen in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. I guess our society is not very healthy at all!:frowning: .

Having said that, there are a couple of cans of worms in the above-quoted post. Like, just how would you “MAKE ALL EMPLOYERS PROVIDE A FAIR WAGE AND SOME TYPE OF AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE”? What is a “fair wage”? And who is (and how are they) going to fairly reform our health care system in the U.S. so as to make health care affordable to all? Please do not get me wrong, I would love to see that happen, but my questions still stand. Maybe this thread is the wrong place to address them?

The only way I could see the above coming about would be through a truely massive and mass conversion to true Gospel principles by most of the people in this country who call themselves Christians. Let us sincerely and fervently pray for that! For those of you not already familiar with it, check out Fr. Thomas Dubay’s Happy Are You Poordynamite!

Living where I do, and rarely venturing far enough from home these days to actually see and/or rub shoulders with beggars or homeless people, I would like to think that when I next do so, I would have the resources (spiritual, temporal, and financial) to give in ways suggested by puzzleannie and Fr. Groeschel, DL82, et al. In the meantime, we give via a number of Catholic charities and causes.

There is, obviously, no easy answer to this. Well, perhaps the *answer * is easy, but the implementation of it less so.:shrug:

There’s a fine line between begging and thievery by deception. The poor in Jesus’ time were truly destitute or lepers (outcasts). St. Paul was clear in pointing out that those among his disciples who refused to work were not entitled to eat. I will give READILY to someone who is clearly down on his/her luck or physically/emotionally handicapped. But these people who look like they just decided not to shave and got on the bus to come beg? These aren’t the people Jesus is talking about.

If I am able, I will ALWAYS give something, coin or cash. Whatever I can reach into my purse and get. If I have no money, I will try to find something in my car. Extra shoes, blanket, prayer cards, whatever. They often are in the store parking lot, so sometimes I can give of what I purchased. God puts these people in our lives because He has given us so much. We are to give back.
I used to be skeptical and didn’t want to give because I thought I would be furthering their circumstances. However, I have gone through extreme financial difficulty this past 4 years and have had to depend on family and free-bees. When you have nothing, anything will help. And really, if someone has to reduce themself to begging, God bless 'em; Give them what you have.


I am glad that you have the ability to truly discern the fraudulent from the needy.

I think that Jesus is asking us to part easily with our possessions, and not be owned by them at the expense of others. Just like the young man who would not sell his possessions, give to the poor and follow Jesus, many of us would rather sit in judgment than give to those that ask.

Our “up by the bootstraps” individualistic culture is promoted at the expense of gospel principles and other human beings. So what if the beggar gets one over on you? S/he received their reward for their behavior here on earth. I think that we are called to store our treasure in heaven, not hoard it here on earth. Give with a joyous heart!

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