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Should I give money to someone sleeping rough?

Posted15.02.24

Should I give money to someone sleeping rough?

We have all encountered people sleeping rough and wondered how we can help. While it is often cautioned that giving money directly may have negative consequences. It is important to consider both the positive and negative implications.

Your money could provide immediate relief by enabling the person to purchase necessities such as food, water, clothing, or toiletries – something that they could not do otherwise. As such, donations can empower someone experiencing homelessness by giving them agency over their own circumstances. They can choose to spend the money how they like. So many choices are taken away from you when you are homeless. By allowing people to choose how to spend the money, you acknowledge their autonomy and dignity.

Offering money can promote a sense of human connection and empathy, acknowledging people’s dignity and worth as individuals. Those we work with often tell us how isolating it can be rough sleeping and how they feel invisible. When you give money, you might be their only positive interaction that day and your small gesture might make them feel seen and valued.

However, on the other side, there is a risk that the money you give might be used to fund substance abuse or other harmful activities, rather than for essential needs. This might exacerbate the mental and physical health needs of the person, thus perpetuating a cycle of addiction.

Some also argue that giving money doesn’t fix anything, and that it could prevent individuals from seeking long-term solutions to what they are experiencing. While immediate relief is important, we must consider the long-term impact of sustained reliance on donations without any actions to address the underlying issues such as the shortage of affordable housing or lack of access to support services.

Furthermore, offering money to someone sleeping rough can pose safety concerns for both the donor and recipient. In some cases, it might attract unwanted attention or put individuals at risk in unsafe environments. Additionally, people experiencing homelessness may become targets for theft or exploitation if they are seen receiving money.

In summary, there is no straightforward answer to the question: should I give money to someone sleeping rough?

If you choose to do so, it is essential to do so with empathy and consideration. Rather than assuming what the person needs, consider asking them directly if they would like assistance and what would be most helpful to them. If you are concerned about how your money might be used, consider alternative ways to offer support. Such as donating to charities supporting homelessness or offering to buy specific items like a meal or warm clothing. If appropriate, engage in conversation with the person, listen to their story, and offer emotional support or resources if they express interest in accessing assistance beyond immediate financial help.

Whether to give money to someone sleeping rough is a personal decision. It should be made with compassion, understanding, and awareness of both the immediate and long-term implications. Whilst directly giving money can offer immediate relief and promote human connection, it also comes with risks and limitations. It is important to weigh these factors and consider alternative ways to support long-term solutions to homelessness. Such as donating to charities that support homelessness in your area or advocating for systemic change.

If you see someone rough sleeping use the Streetlink app. This reports their location so that an outreach team can link them up with support services.

 

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