[quote=MCOLE]I took a new job in May which requires me to drive 160 miles/day. I see people on the roadside hitch-hiking, or I see the people standing at stop signs holding signs. I am a 38 year old female, and, as you know most of these unfortunates are male. On two occasions, I immediately felt I was in a position that I could help in some small way and asked the young men to walk to a fast-food place that was within view, then I met them and got them something to eat. There was one occasion that I went to get a young man some food, but when I came back, the man was gone (he wasn’t aware that I was going to get him anything) Then there have been occasions when the traffic was pretty bad and I felt uneasy about picking up the stranger and letting him in my car. Today, though, I saw a young man in a very busy intersection with a sign that read, “I need a miracle/God Bless” I looked at him, squatted down petting his dog and I guess he saw that I was looking at him and could see that I was trying to figure out some way I could help him…he stood up and looked back at me-the light changed and I drove forward, but felt terrible that I didn’t help him. I drove on, but turned around and went back to the highway so that I could turn around again to get on the off ramp that he and his dog was on. I saw him when I got on the on-ramp, but by the time I got back to the off-ramp, he was gone.
My question is this: Do any of you have any suggestions on how to help people in these situations? My husband worries about me so much and has insisted that I not give any money or let anyone in my car, which is where I came up with buying the meal in a public place. I know there are a lot of crazy people out there, but there are more good people who are in terrible situations. I just think I was given this job which exposes me to a lot of these situations for a reason and I want to do all I can. If I fear people more than I trust God, do I really trust in God? How do I ease my husband’s fears?
I will talk to my Priest about this, but I would like to hear some of your input and see if any of you have run into the same situation.
Bless you for your generosity. You are not obligated to give to these individuals, if you are giving money to your parish or to social service organizations that help the poor you can be assured that you are helping people who really need it. In addition to people who are in real need, there are also con artists and criminals on the street corners.
We had a presentation one year during my company’s United Way campaign (and I know United Way is problematic and therefore do not give to them). Despite being United Way, the talk was very interesting. It was a woman who had been homeless and had been helped by a United Way agency. She actually suggested that you should NOT give money to those on the corners because they are about 99% scam artists. She said that people in need who really want to get off the street know where to get help (ie, bona fide shelters and social services) as she did. Anyway, she suggested giving to the agencies not to the people on the street. That’s one perspective. Also, I would tend to agree that the street corner beggars are scammers, because I sidewalk counsel every week at Planned Parenthood in a “bad” part of town with many homeless. Lots of homeless will stop and pray with us and maybe 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 ask for a handout. They are the REAL homeless, but they are not asking us for anything. So, I tend not to believe the ones on the corner asking for $.
If you do feel called to give to these people, sometimes I know I do, then I do have a couple of suggestions. My old roommate used to carry lunchbags with food in them with non-perishable, easy-open foods like the ready-made lunch packs for kids, chips, an apple, etc… and she’d give those away from her car. She actually had most people refuse the food and curse her, they really wanted $$ for drugs (even though their sign said “hungry”…). But, some took the food.
Other ideas would include buying gift certificate dollars for fast food places common in your area, like McDonalds. You can usually get them in $1 denominations, and give them out instead of cash. That way you know your $ is going to food, not drugs.
And, pick up business cards from the local shelter/social service agencies and give them out with the certificates or in the lunch bags or just give them out alone. Those who really want help will use the card to get help.