By Gillian Taylor | Staff Writer
What I perceive as the bare minimum of human decency is often up for debate. Growing up, my church would participate in homeless outreaches and donate non-perishable food items to those in need, but we were always warned to never give the homeless money.
The church’s main concern was that people who are homeless would use this money to buy drugs and alcohol.
People living on the street were lumped together with a stigma of being untrustworthy addicts. Credible estimates from the National Library of Medicine suggest that 30% of the homeless abuse alcohol while 10% abuse drugs.
How have we let a small group of the homeless population dictate that none of them deserve help?
Many issues the homeless community faces are overlooked. According to a study by the National Homelessness Law Center, 20% of the homeless nationwide suffer from untreated mental illnesses, and the leading cause of homelessness in women is domestic violence.
These are just two examples of the countless scenarios that lead to people living without a home, and it’s naive and narrow-minded to think all of their struggles are the same.
Cans of food and other donations can be beneficial, but the homeless population may need money for other undisclosed issues. Yes, some people who are homeless may use the money for alcohol or drugs. However, it’s a slight risk for a substantial reward.
In high school, I went on a mission trip with my church that was very impactful for my view of people who are homeless. We stayed in an area called the “Tenderloin” — notorious for its homeless population.
I heard several people’s life stories while interacting with them on the street. Not surprisingly, each had their own testimony. Some were veterans, some were widows and some had been orphaned at a young age and were struggling to make it independently.
It seemed so hypocritical in my eyes for the church to take us on the trip, let us interact with genuine people who are hurting and need help, and then tell us not to give them money because they could possibly abuse it. I know there was no ill intent, but it did not sit right with me.
The church encouraged us to help in other ways by giving food or donating to shelters. However, it was hard for me to grasp not financially helping a person who was standing right in front of me and was visibly in need.
A few dollars will buy a cup of coffee for the average student, but it’s worth way more to those living without a home. I think the benefits of giving money clearly outweigh the downsides.
If there is a chance that you could help someone buy a meal or something they need or that you could just give them a glimpse of hope with a small act of kindness, why wouldn’t you do it?