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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Give Money to Homeless?

A lot of my Jewish friends say that I should not give money to the homeless because the homeless are homeless because they choose to be homeless, not only should I therefore not help them, they would probably spend that money on drugs if I was to give it to them. I have even heard a Rabbi tell me that I should not give them food because the city has places for them to go if they really wanted to get food. Are most Jewish people correct on this issue?

I am not sure where I stand on this issue, it has been bothering me for a long time. I am not sure because I agree with much of what Jews told me, but I just disagree with their conclusion. I do think that a lot of homeless are homeless because they are failures on life. But at the same time I do think there are people who had unlucky events happen in their lives that made them end up as homeless. I also very strongly believe that the restriction to enter the labor market (from regulations) leads to more unemployment (like the minimum-wage law) and other labor regulations, thus the extremely poor have a tough time finding a job. In this sense the homeless are homeless not through a fault of their own, but a fault of policies that prevented them from being employed.

So I am kinda split on the issue of whose fault is it? I do think there is some personal responsibility, because everyone has to take responsibility for his actions, but the question is to what extent are the homeless responsible? Lots of my Jewish friends are under the impression that it is entirely the fault of the homeless for being homeless. But I do not really think so. I think that in many cases this is true. But in many other cases it is not.

When I see a homeless person I give him the benefit and I assume that he is homeless by events that made him unfortunate. I do not know why I do that. Perhaps, it is my faith in people. I guess this is one of my weaknesses - to have faith in people (though this faith was really shaken when I learned that the top selling PC game of all time was the Sims). If I have money to give I usually give it.

But let us consider the worst-case scenario. Let us consider the homeless person is homeless entirely through his own fault, and let us also assume that he will spend that money to buy himself drugs. But even in this case I am not bothered. Because I see compassion and altruism as virtuous. And so even if someone does not deserve help I still think humans need to learn to be compassionate and altruistic. Giving money to homeless, even if it is their own fault, is a sign of compassion and altruism, which is why I still think that we should give money (or food) regardless.

But what about the objection that they may buy drugs with it? My question is, who cares if they buy drugs? Let them buy drugs and enjoy their depressing lives. Besides do you really think they buy drugs with that money. Somehow I doubt that. Drugs are expensive (the fault of the failed war on drugs). Do you really think that the dollar they get from you will be enough to buy something? Even if twenty people give them a dollar that is not enough money for them to get a supply of drugs. I am skeptical to the idea that homeless people use your money to get drugs for this reason.

This is what I really think about the homeless situation. I think that most ordinary people are not comfortable with homeless people next to them. Homeless are outcasts and so normal people do not want the homeless near them. People also assume that homeless are dangerous or they would rob you, so they have an added negative feeling from this falsely perceived threat. Now the anti-homeless attitude is very clear. Since people do not like them they invent excuses not to give them money. So they invent the excuse that the homeless are all failures and that they just wants drugs. But maybe I am wrong. I do not know.

Should we give money to the homeless?

1 comment:

  1. I don't care if they use drugs. If that's their highest valued end, so be it.