To give or not to give?

By Bill Miller, Envoy

Whether or not to give directly to homeless individuals is a difficult dilemma.

I can only speak on behalf of my city, St. Paul, Minn., where many of those who hold up a sign on the ramps and roads are not really homeless or are not really in need of the money. In our city, nobody needs to be homeless, especially anybody that really needs help. Our city has enough beds, including The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, which turns nobody away, no matter the time or situation.

I’ve found that the signs are a way to tug at our hearts. Yet in that giving, we may actually be providing money for harm, including alcohol or drugs. So despite a giving spirit, you may be enabling harmful behaviors.

I hate to write this as a member of a council who helps people overcome homelessness and addiction everyday, but people who hold up signs do not take advantage of the many avenues possible to get out of where they are. A better use of your money would be a donation to the local Salvation Army, like I do. Get a card for that location—with the phone number and address—and give it to people you encounter on the streets. There is no reason why someone should be sleeping out on the streets. I give my card to businessmen, and I personally give my card to everybody that asks about this question.

I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard when you see someone with a sad face—I mean, I teach all my bell ringers to give. But the bottom line is that The Salvation Army gives people a place to stay, and while I can’t speak for other areas, we live in a bitterly cold environment where people can die if they don’t get assistance. The Army would never let anyone do this, and therefore The Salvation Army I run sometimes houses over 800 people a night.

God bless you for what you do, but avoid hurting people by providing information about The Salvation Army rather than cash.


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