On Giving to the Homeless

I recently reached out to a somewhat famous blogger/podcaster/personality because I heard some comments from him about his view on giving to the homeless. It really struck a chord with me.

His views are pretty common. So I'm posting my letter here as well.


Dear XXX,

I recently listened to the episode of XXXXXX that you were on. One teeny tiny part of that interview really startled me and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

It was the part where you explained that you never give money to homeless panhandlers because you had a homeless person give you a “tour of homelessness” in San Francisco and they pointed out all the places where homeless people can get services. So, I presume your logic for not giving to panhandlers is like that of many…”they have resources to use, they just chose not to, so they don’t deserve my money”.

I’m asking you to reconsider that conclusion.

I live not far from you. Over the past five years our homeless population has skyrocketed, while the services available to them have dwindled.

I get approached a LOT. A LOT A LOT. Unlike you, I always give if I have cash on me. Anyone who asks me will get something.  And if I have nothing, I always say “I’m sorry, I just don’t have any cash on me”.

It’s not because I don’t think he has resources. He may well be an addict just looking for a fix. But that’s not my business. My business is to positively contribute to my community. My community, and your community, includes these people.

I know enough about you to know that you fully understand things like the Law of Attraction and you know how critically important it is to have your head together in order to move into positivity and abundance in life.

If you take that knowledge to its logical conclusion, homeless people and people living in poverty don’t understand any of that. Most of them have never been introduced to those ideas. Most of those folks TRULY TRULY believe, deep in their souls, that this is the life they were destined for and there is no way out for them. They truly believe they will be forever destitute and struggling. They believe this is undeniable fact. They look at people like you or me and they fundamentally believe that they could never attain our lives.

And if you take that a level deeper, and really take apart how they must view themselves…..well, you know where that would take you. You’d see people who truly don’t value themselves, more than likely because most people they encounter tell them they are valueless. They sink deeper and deeper into that mindset every day because they have the idea of their worth enforced by the people who walk by them every single day.

Every time you ignore a human who reached out to you, it adds a brick to the giant wall that divides that person from a life that feels worth living.

I know you could imagine what that would do to a person’s soul after days, weeks, months, years of that. Having people talk down to you daily. Tell you that you’re worthless daily. Being treated like a criminal or pariah daily. Can you imagine what a person must think of themselves after enduring that treatment for any length of time? Can you imagine having people talk to you like that daily?

So….I give not because I think they really need that money. I give because I think they really need something OTHER than being ignored or worse.  Knowing what I know about the vital importance of ones perception of themselves in order to improve, I don’t feel that I can just ignore another human anymore.

I’m not magic….I can’t see if that person legitimately wants to get off the street or how they are going to spend my money. And it’s not my business to guess at it, either.

I believe that if we want to improve our communities and ultimately see less homeless, we need to positively engage. 

On a very basic level….there is just so much wrong with the idea of telling yourself “Well, theres resources out there, they could help themselves if they really wanted”. It’s just plain not true.
Again, we don’t live far from one another…..in my city, our resources are completely tapped out. 

Sure, I can point out to you where services are available to homeless folks, but I’ve taken it a step further and actually tried to do it. ALL our services are drastically overburdened and cannot possibly help everyone. There’s just not enough resources. Once, I met a mother with two small children the street. I called every single shelter in town and they were all full, with months long wait lists. The one shelter we have that is dedicated to women and children had a wait list so long they couldn’t even give me an estimate of how long it takes to get in, but MINIMUM was 6 months. I met a vet on the street and spent a week making phone calls to different agencies that help vets, including the VA, only to be told the same thing………wait lists or no help available at all.

Sure, there are agencies that help. But there is no way they have the bandwidth to help everyone who asks. Which leaves many homeless people even more desperate, depressed, and feeling even more like they are in a hole that is impossible to climb out of.

For folks in cities where there are ample resources, they have to contend with getting to them. Even if a person in my city could get resources………they’d have to figure out how to get to a half dozen different parts of town that are not readily accessible my public transit. And how do they get money for public transit anyways? The practical barriers to accessing help make that help virtually useless for the majority of homeless.

Anyways…I’ve rambled on long enough. TL/DR version: I don’t really believe that it’s good for our community to ignore homeless people or treat them as anything other than fellow community members. I believe it adds to the cycle of homelessness and poverty, because one’s mindset is probably the most important thing to cultivate if we want people to believe they can do better.

I hope you reconsider you thoughts on helping your homeless neighbors. I’m not saying give to them all…….sometimes you just don’t’ have money, sometimes it’s a potentially dangerous situation……there are reasons not to sometimes. But I am a firm believer in the idea that if you know better, then you should do better.

Thanks for your time.


  1. "I don’t really believe that it’s good for our community to ignore homeless people or treat them as anything other than fellow community members" This x1000. We've had a bunch of drama in Portland because the mayor passed a law that allowed homeless people to camp in city limits. This popular running/biking trail became a homeless campground, and people were very upset. Ignoring whatever side I stand on (which FTR, I am deeply conflicted over, it is not b&w) ... Everyone deserves to be talked to and about with RESPECT. Don't judge and don't assume. Overgeneralization hurts everyone.

    I'm so tired of hearing, "yeah, but my friend runs/works at/etc a shelter AND THEY TOLD ME... [insert excuse for why all homeless people are addicts, violent, etc.] and that's why [insert coded language that basically says I refuse to help.]"

    I just think over and over,
    "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."


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