Give to charities instead.
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Charities know what beggars really need
People who run charities started the organization with an understanding of how to best homeless people. Charities are better equipped to make a real impact for homeless people because charities are the combined, organized efforts of a group of people.
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One of the biggest arguments against giving money directly to the homeless is the fear that the giver’s money will be used negatively—on drugs and alcohol. This fear is motivated by a stereotype that homeless people are alcoholics and drug addicts. The fear can also be motivated by an idea that giving directly to a person who is homeless perpetuates their cycle of poverty, as they will be disincentivized to save or seek employment. Both fears are based on the idea that homeless people cannot make the best decisions for themselves. Can an organized charity do better to help the homeless?
By giving to charity, the giver can rest knowing the money will not be used towards negative things such as drugs and alcohol. The giver can read a charity’s mission statement or see where a charity will spend its money. With the internet, it is easier to find charities in your area and research whether they are effective. A giver’s donation will not go 100% towards a homeless person because a charity requires funds to continue. Yet, the giver can be assured their money will go towards the charity’s work, which may include supporting social workers who are educated to help homeless people, preparing safe and healthy meals for homeless people, or providing housing. Charities vary in their approaches to helping the homeless, but overall, charities work directly with homeless people and know their needs better than the average person who comes across a beggar. Because charities work directly with a homeless person, charities can focus their efforts on specific groups of people or adapt themselves to a specific city’s context. One charity in Virginia houses LGBTQ+ youth. Other charities focus on struggling artists, the homeless in your local area, or people of color. Because charities are organized and specific, a giver can ensure their donation is going to a cause they believe in. Because charities are organized, they have more power to tackle homelessness both at the individual and societal level. For example, the Coalition for the Homeless in New York has a long-standing history of providing housing directly to the homeless. The Coalition also advocates for the homeless legally by petitioning the New York City government to invest in affordable rental housing, a solution proven to care for the homeless permanently, rather than investing in temporary care like shelters and correctional facilities. Charities like the Coalition for the Homeless are able to promote both individual and institutional change because it is an organized entity.
Many charities are corrupt and will not spend your money wisely. By giving directly to a person in need, you eliminate an extra step and ensure that the money falls in the hands of that person. Giving directly has better rewards for both parties involved: the giver has greater satisfaction for seeing their gift impact someone immediately, and the receiver can feel seen and have a direct, material benefit. Both parties impact one another through direct, intentional contact. On the other hand, giving indirectly to a charity isolates the giver from the real needs and problems of others.
[P1] Giving money directly to a homeless person does not guarantee the money will be used in an effective way. [P2] Organized efforts are more effective than individual efforts. [P3] Charities are entities that systematically and effectively help homeless people.