Written by: Erica Watkins and Zoe Weisner
When I was a kid, my dad and I would occasionally pass by the a torn-down Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) near our home. There used to be one homeless man who had set up camp there, and my dad would always make an effort to talk to him or help him out. He seemed to be in his late 60s; he reminded me of Dumbledore. He seemed very intelligent compared to other homeless people I had met before.
One day, my dad decided to give him money and offered to buy him something from KFC. The man told us what he wanted, and we proceeded to go inside the restaurant to order just that.
When we went back to give him his food he had completely disappeared, leaving me with diminishing faith in the integrity of the homeless. It was clear that he only wanted our money and did not actually need basic necessities like food. As a kid, I did not understand why he turned down the food. Now I realize that he probably used the money on alcohol or drugs.
That day, I learned that there are there are homeless who are struggling to afford a house and food and accept help from others, and others who are stuck in a life experimenting with different types of drugs and eventually becoming addicted. The latter of the two is the kind who need the most tender loving care. From my experience, I’ve concluded that giving money directly will not help them, but people taking an interest in their welfare will.
I have given money to homeless people on the streets many times in my life, but it was always an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment decision. This was the first time I would go out of my way to find someone in need. Although I was anxious, I was also excited that I would be making some difference in someone’s life, albeit a small one.
I began my search on University Avenue by scouring for people who resembled a typical homeless person, ready to hand out the 10 dollars I had stored in my pocket for safekeeping. Surprisingly (or perhaps not), I found a man with a sign asking for spare change outside of a boutique within the first five minutes of my search. He was seated in a wheelchair with a blanket on his lap and looked absolutely miserable. I headed straight towards him.
As soon as I gave him the money, he smiled and thanked me profusely. I felt so proud of myself, I went to celebrate my charitable act at a nearby frozen yogurt store. As I was contemplating my actions, I randomly decided to look outside the window at the spot where the man in the wheelchair was sitting—and was completely appalled. The man was standing straight up while smoking a cigarette and talking on his cell phone.
At that moment, even though I had given it to him mself, I felt as if I had just been robbed of my money. For the following days, I felt so disgusted that I swore I would never give money to the homeless again. But then I realized that the actions of one person should not deter me from urgently helping the ones in need—that there will always be people who abuse the kindness of others. Personally giving out spare change to the homeless is something everyone should strive to do every once in a while, because the action is much more immediate. Although I am still deeply shaken by this incident, I know that there are many people in the world that truly do need our help and money. We just need to go out and find them first.