How are we to discern true need from fraud?

I am suspicious by nature due to my upbringing. I remember as a child how my now deceased father (a military veteran and police officer) never gave money to people who approached us on the street. It is ingrained in my nature to always be suspicious of those asking for money, be it the man holding a sign on the center median or the lady claiming to be collecting funds for the homeless as she stands at the exit to the grocery store. Just as my father did, I regularly give to legitimate charities through my parish or on my own. I’ve also bought sandwiches for people who approach me on the street and tell me they’re hungry. I just have a problem giving money to people who are holding a sign on the street corner, or those who have a child with them when they approach me asking for money. I am suspicious of their intent and cannot get rid of the idea that they are just taking advantage of people’s generosity so they can perpetrate fraud. I feel that those who have a child with them when they are asking for money are just using the child as a prop in an effort to appeal to the emotions of the generous. Am I wrong in this mentality? Is it sinful? What do you all do in these situations?

There was a convenience store across the street from a seminary I used to attend. The “locals” knew it was a target rich environment for panhandling. One of my classmates when approached one day asked the man if it was for food or drugs. “It’s for food” he said, though my classmate was skeptical… Classmate asked if he could pray with the man before giving him the money, to which he agreed. Prayer was something like this:

“Lord, let this money bless this man. Let the food he will buy with it nourish his body and bless him Lord with work in the future. If he is planning on using this for drugs or alcohol Lord, let it condemn him and he suffer the consequences of falsely asking”.

The man literally jumped away from the classmate and wouldn’t take the money…

Our lib social justice centered professor thought that was manipulative…I thought it was more justice than I’d seen in a long time.

That said, we should help the poor and though I don’t live in a city so it is a rarity, I often just give them a couple bucks and count it a seed planted for the kingdom. Even if they are scamming, I figure if their life is so messed up they have to scam for a couple bucks it’s an offering well worth the reminder of how good I have it.

There is a public agency that became concerned because pan-handlers were harassing pedestrians … so they formed a task force.

Each pan-handler was asked what his or her needs were … and various social welfare agencies were there and each pan-handler was offered the services requested. They had converted a nearby building into a place that offered food and washing facilities, clothing, etc.

However, if a pan-handler refused assistance, the friendly local police officer requested the pan-handler to keep moving.

All legal and proper.

There have been numerous studies done that something like 80% of panhandlers are mentally ill and/or drug addicts.

For a source, look for the work by Dr. Roukema, who has written extensively on this subject.

Here is one reference; there are others:

What Every Patient, Family, Friend, and Caregiver Needs to Know about …
By Richard W. Roukema

I try to give to everybody that asks. I was carrying a stack of $1 bills and would at least one to everyone that asked and say a Hail Mary. I was out with my girlfriend once and was doing this and she was surprised at the reaction I got.people were genuinely thankful. It’s not about he money ($1 won’t buy much) but acknowledging them and their need. Christmas and an engagement ring set me back a bit so I had to put a hold on this particular devotion for awhile.

Prudence is definitely important though. The Newark train station during a snow storm was a very humbling experience. I didn’t give anybody anything that day, there were just too many people.

Thank you everyone for your replies. I’m glad that my thinking is similar to all of yours in this matter.

Everything we have is on loan to us.

Jesus told us to feed, clothe, visit etc etc the hungry…not shake them down or concern ourselves if they have clothes or money.

They are our family and if they are asking and it’s in your power to give…give. If they are in need you will help them…if they are depraved of mind and heart…maybe God can do something and that lost individual may very well be in need of that dollar or whatever.

If Jesus can give Himself to trillions of wretched people throughout history…we can give a buck regardless of their intention…it’s only a piece of paper anyway.

I always try to go in and buy something and eat with them…its their human dignity they are starved from.

I’ve recently been praying for a change of heart on this issue. You took a different angle on this issue that I haven’t seriously considered before. I sincerely appreciate your reply and I will continue to reflect on what you said. Your response might lead to that change of heart I have been praying about.

When you have lunch with those who are homeless, do they tend to respond favorably? Do they make accusations against you that are anti-Christian, such as you are only being nice to make yourself feel better, etc? I’m curious as to what I should expect. I’m assuming you’ve seen a variety of different responses. Thanks Michael.

I met an witch once…very respectful. We spoke about similarities and differences.

Most are very talkative and friendly and respectful.

I’ve of course had several that flat out just wanted money…and as far as I am concerned, that’s fine too.

You’ll never know who you’re going to meet. But I’ll tell you … SOMETIMES…you meet someone who will floor you with their humility and spirituality and make you realize that not all the poor live on the streets! I know Jesus is there in the poor and He can work with You by your service to them.

Highly recommended and really listen…they have a lot to teach.

I’m happy your heart has had a change! I was just shooting for giving a good idea…lol

Thanks be to God.

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