Most homeless people can't get jobs. We can go home, take a shower, get dressed, etc - the homeless guy doesn't have that advantage. Every job application I've ever seen asks for an address, I would imagine not having one automatically puts you at more of a dis-advantage than skin tone or gender ever could.

You have a computer, maybe you have a car... you can spare a quarter. Too many people find excuses to not give to the homeless - if you're worried that he'll buy beer with your money and you care at all, buy him a burger or a cheap blanket. Just don't make excuses, enough people starve and freeze in this country every year.

So you're skeptical of the decently clothed and clean "homeless" or "needy" person begging for your hard earned change on the train...but there has to be a reason they're there. Even if their intentions aren't honorable, even if they're just begging or singing or selling Street News for supplemental income and they're not really in dire need of money for food...something has driven them to that point. And even if the motivation is greed, they'll get karmically bitten in the ass later.

Give a small amount to those strangers who ask for your help. Will it really hurt you? Will it really set you back that much? Sure, your paycheck is a week away and you've blown most of it. That person might not have seen a paycheck in months, years even. Take a chance and invest in a human.

But, there's more. Giving up your precious change isn't all there is to it. That person is in need of more than just a quick drop of yer coin. Look them in the eye. Say "Hello, take care, good luck." Let them know they are still alive and are important and that they are human.

The longer a person is out on the street, the longer they beg, the more it becomes a way of life and the desire to rejoin a society that shuns them dwindles. Give them a quarter, a nickle, a dime...but please, try to also give them your heart, for a change.

Easier said than done, I know.

A number of years ago I made the decision not to give change to the homeless, not that I don't feel for their predicament, or that I don't understand the political economy that puts them there.

All my life I have worked, either as an lone individual, arguing the efficacy and necessity of socialism, in person, and here on E2, or as a political organizer for those political parties that espouse something close to what I believe.

For all that rugged individualism is extolled as the way to riches, and to aleviating the misery of those under discussion in this node, it is rather pointless for either goal, though it does let one feel good.

And that is the point: to feel good. The thrust of libertarian policy is the deflation of any possible notion of collective action in favour of individual.

The notion I espouse may be thought rather cruel, I understand: give change to the homelss that you see, send money to the poor child you see on those television commercials from the Christian Save the Children Fund, feel good, and nothing will change. Work to see the political structure for what it is; work to change its political economy, join with others to provide collective solutions, be vilified by the libertarians that we have permitted to benefit from our effort.

It is not easy, to be sure, but is it any harder than what we now have?

Although it may seem like you are doing the right thing by giving change to the homeless, you really may be causing harm by doing so.

Many of the homeless are abusers of drugs or alcohol and would quickly take any money given to them and put it toward their habit. Not ALL the homeless, but many, and it can be difficult to tell the difference.

If you want to do something to help, donate your time and/or money to the shelters that help the homeless by providing food, shelter and trying to help them get jobs. Become familiar with where your local shelters are and direct the homeless person there when asked for change.

Or, if you really feel that you need to give something right then, offer to buy a meal for the person. At least that way you know that you have made a positive investment in this person.

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