No matter where you live, you’ve probably encountered an unhoused person asking for money. We put together some ideas for what to do when you encounter this, as it is crucial to balance personal security and compassion.
1. I Get Paid Next Week
Having no cash is one thing, but what about if you haven’t been paid yet? Most people get paid weekly or bi-weekly. If you’re tight on money, you won’t be able to give anything away.
2. Say No, Politely
Responding to a homeless person asking for change is someone’s choice, but this commenter responded politely, even if they were saying no. It is an acknowledgment of the other person’s humanity if nothing else.
This person elaborated that they felt saying something, even if it was a denial of the request, seemed polite and the basics of what they owed to another human being.
3. Show and Tell
In this instance, the person responding answered inadvertently with the car they were driving in. He stated that he had a late-model car that was being held together with hopes and prayers.
His bumpers were taped to the car, so when he pulled to an intersection where a person was panhandling, the unhoused person reacted by throwing his hands up in the air and shaking his head no. The homeless person smiled and didn’t even ask.
4. Give Them a Smile
If you live in the city, you get a lot of requests for money from the unhoused. This poster had a solution for that. When passing by someone requesting money, he would smile and nod. Again, this is more of an acknowledgment of the request and giving them the dignity they deserve, even if they do not want to hear the answer.
He states that he doesn’t always say no, but with the sheer volume of requests, he can’t say yes to everyone. Additionally, this user takes the time to purchase water and food for unhoused people who live near his home and who he sees on the street.
5. No Cash
During the pandemic, people were worried that paper money could spread the virus, and it was a legitimate concern since outbreaks were traced to touch in New Zealand. The South Korean government steam-cleaned bills during the height of the lockdown years of the pandemic. It has become common that people don’t carry cash on them anymore because of this phenomenon.
A user explained how the fact that they don’t bring money with them became their default answer to people asking for handouts. It’s not intentional, but they can’t give what they don’t have.
6. Ignore Them Completely
Some cities like New York have a reputation for toughness, and New York City is probably the best-known American city with this reputation. A prime example of a New Yorker’s answer to a homeless person is that they ignored them like they weren’t even there.
The commenter explained that they did this because they were from New York, and it was a typical response in their home city.
7. Apology Not Accepted
Another polite answer is what a Canadian had to offer in the discussion. Canadians are known for their politeness, so this isn’t that surprising. What is surprising is one of the reactions.
When a Canadian user replied to an unhoused person asking for money by saying sorry, dude, the homeless person yelled that they didn’t need that person’s sorry and then proceeded to chase them for a couple of blocks. Humorously, the Canadian responded by yelling back, “Sorry, dude! I’m Canadian!”
8. Changeable Answers
One wise answer was that the commenter’s response depended on how the person in need asked the question. They take each situation as it comes, which makes sense.
The unhoused and those who ask for handouts aren’t all the same. There were reports in the forum of swindlers who only pretended to be homeless to take advantage of passersby. Though that isn’t the norm, some people approach these situations with an abundance of caution.
This person said, “My go-to is, ‘sorry, try and have a good one!’”
9. Tell Them The Truth
Can you help everyone? You can’t, but this individual recommended being honest and saying, “I can’t help you.” Honesty is for the best, even though it might not be the answer they seek.
Homeless people live on the edge of society and hang on by the skin of their teeth, so any acknowledgment that they are part of society and deserve to be treated as human beings can help boost their morale and perhaps help them get back on their feet.
10. Turnabout Is Fair Play
This jokester asked a street person for money, got a surprising answer, and then surprised the homeless person. At first, it might seem confusing, but the story has a happy ending.
The commenter said, “A few times, I asked them for money. One of them surprised me and gave me a five-dollar bill. I gave his five back plus a twenty and bought him a bunch of hamburgers to take back to his friends.” It was kindness through humor.
11. I’m Right There With You, Buddy
Sadly, many people are close to the financial threshold of being unhoused even though employed. An honest person said they responded that they could quickly be like the unhoused person themselves if they missed one paycheck.
The person expounded on a conversation they had with someone asking for change. He said the person on the street had more money in their cup than in their bank account, which stunned the homeless person.
12. Run For Your Life
If you haven’t been to California recently, you may not believe it when you hear about the unhoused crisis. Seriously, it’s advised that you don’t walk alone at night and have a cab ready before you step outside.
There’s no shortage of tents throughout northern California where the homeless reside. Some even walk with their hands stretched out, asking for money, leading some to compare them to zombies.
13. “This Job Sux But I Need Some Bux”
One user recalls seeing a man covered in gold foil and makeup. The cherry on top was this man having piston rods in his arms and legs doing the “robot dance.” He had a sign that said, “This job sucks but I need some bux.”
The user tipped this homeless person $5 and said it was well worth it. It was truly a win-win situation.
14. Create a Monthly Budget
Some may think creating a budget to give away wastes time. However, we must remember that most of us are truly fortunate not to experience the other side of things: begging for money. While our jobs can be stressful and life is hard, it could be worse.
Someone recommended creating a monthly budget to buy gift cards at various fast food places. The next time a homeless person asks for money, they may be surprised at how prepared you are when you present them with a fast food gift card.
15. Here’s a Dollar
You probably don’t see homeless people every day, but if you do, you can use this strategy sparingly. If you regularly carry some cash with you, have a dollar readily available. The next time a homeless person asks for money, give them a dollar and wish them a great day. Always be careful and do this with other people around.
A dollar won’t change a person’s life, but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully, others will do the same, and the person will have enough to buy what they need after a few hours.
16. How About Food Instead?
Before you do this, you may want to check with the homeless person, but buying them food can often be a win-win. The prevailing belief is that homeless people will use the money they receive for everything but food, so if this concerns you, try offering them a sandwich and their favorite drink.
Now you can go home feeling like you’ve helped someone, knowing they’re fed for another day.
17. I Can’t Hear You
This might not be the best solution, but it is a possibility. For this to work, you must pretend you can’t hear the homeless person asking you for money. Point to your headphones and give your best excuse. Either tell them you can’t hear or you’re talking on the phone.