Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Giving Money to Homeless People Does More Harm than Good

 by Brandon Janse Van Vuuren

Chronic homelessness is a major problem in most metropolitan areas, and it is hard to ignore the plight of those suffering under these conditions. While many people face homelessness for only a short period of time, those who are homeless for long periods are at least twice as likely to suffer from mental illness, face violence, exposure to the elements, substance abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, discrimination, and they often find it extremely difficult to find employment and overcome their desperate situation.

Often people feel compelled to give money to those who are homeless, but these actions can only bring short-term relief to a long-term problem, or even lead to further problems. When confronted with poverty and societal problems, it is tempting to offer money to allay a sense of guilt or due to empathy with these disenfranchised members of society.

Homeless people, in most cases, make enough money from begging to survive, but they don't make enough money to get themselves out of their current situation. For the large segment of chronically homeless people who are addicts, substance abuse brings immediate relief to the troubles of homelessness, but does not offer opportunities for betterment, and those who are already addicted to substances will often choose to spend what little they receive on feeding their addictions instead of on sustenance. Thus, giving money directly to the chronically homeless could lead to an endless cycle of begging, addiction and desperation.

Another major concern is that giving money to the chronically homeless encourages them to settle for the conditions they live in. By giving we are sustaining a problem instead of solving it. Homeless people deserve a better life, but by giving them money instead of needed help, we are encouraging this problem by enabling them to settle for this way of life instead of seeking help.

Giving food or other needed resources might be a better step in helping those who are homeless. Additionally, you can locate one of the shelters in your area and donate or volunteer. The Haven Night Shelter offers assistance to many people who are homeless. These shelters offer tickets you can give to homeless people so that they can receive a night’s stay and a meal, and many shelters offer resources and guidance as well, and will try to reunite the homeless with their families or even help them to find employment. There are resources available to deal with this problem, and the best thing you can do is to guide someone towards these resources instead of contributing to keeping them on the streets.

While we all need to do our part to eradicate poverty in our societies, it is often more damaging to give money and thereby sustain the problem. To overcome chronic homelessness, it is necessary to engage in programs that can truly empower and enable people to better their lives.

Please visit www.haven.org.za for more information.