Giving something other than money shows that you care
Giving food rather than money to a homeless person demonstrates to them that you care about their well being. To take the time and effort to give money over food shows the homeless you have compassion and empathy.
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According to a study by the Coalition for the Homeless, cities are increasingly criminalizing efforts to feed people in need. Homelessness is already dehumanizing, but cities have passed "quality of life" laws to further isolate their homeless populations .
Anyone can give money, but giving food to a person in need shows that you are actually thinking about what they are in need of. Even more important than the giving of food is the action of looking a homeless person in the eye and saying, "I see you". Many areas with large homeless populations have cautioned against giving money - giving food is a way to show that you still notice and care about these populations, while at the same time obeying rules and regulations set forth by local governments. Giving food also shows that you care more about the person's general well-being. One report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development stated that 60% of homeless people admitted to abusing drugs or alcohol. A study conducted in Wichita Falls, Texas, found that homeless people who were given $25 gift cards spent a larger percentage of the money on cigars, cigarettes, and alcohol than on food. Preferring giving food over money for fear of the money being spent on substances does not mean you are negatively stereotyping all homeless people as being addicts; it means that you are concerned about the person's future and don't want to feed a potential addiction and provide them with something that is essential to life. The truth is that beggars, usually unable to save their money, are incentivized to spend it quickly instead - thus making them more likely to spend it on harmful substances. This is why it is a much more useful and compassionate gesture to give food instead of money if you are donating directly to a homeless person.
Giving food instead of money does not necessarily show that you care more; it could mean that you have food on hand, aren't carrying cash, or find it easier and cheaper to provide food instead of money. It is impossible to tell what is behind somebody's intentions based on what they give you. Perhaps you are giving food instead of cash because you do not trust a homeless person to spend the money wisely, and believe that it will be used to buy drugs or alcohol-based on the homeless being commonly stereotyped as addicts ; this could be hurtful to some. "The idea that we should give homeless people food instead of money is patronizing," says Lauren Savill, a contributing writer for HerCampus. "It demonizes the homeless, and encourages us to consider homeless people to be lesser members of society." Money is just as valuable as food, if not more because it does not expire and it gives the person the freedom to buy whatever they feel they need the most. Many homeless people consider clothes, toiletries, transportation passes, etc. as essentials as well; they may have plenty of food but are in need of some of these items.
Rejecting the premises