Across multiple religions, giving back to the poor is highly encouraged and thought to make one closer to enlightenment. Whether religious or not, giving for the sake of others just feels good and can help others feel good as well.
Homeless people are everywhere. Without a place to call home, they often populate public places like park benches, alleyways and, in Gainesville, the sidewalks of University Avenue.
You might see them on your walk downtown, asking for any cash or coins you might have. For a couple seconds, there’s a debate in your head whether you should give the person the money you planned to use on drinks at White Buffalo or not. After handing them some cash, you feel like a good citizen.
The truth is, you may be stopping your alcohol use that night, but you might be fueling theirs.
In an article written by The Atlantic, a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found six out of ten homeless people admitted to having problems with alcohol and drugs.
Giving cash to homeless people makes it easy for them to spend money quickly. Combined with substance abuse issues, the money ends up being spent on something different than what you had pictured.
The “right” avenue of donating is not a straight path. Donating to charity organizations seems like a good idea, but comes with a lot of red tape and fees taken out of your original donation. Charity accreditor BBB Wise Giving Alliance requires that charities have to spend at least 65 percent of their funds towards actual charity rather than the organization itself.
The rankings of homeless charities on charitynavigator.org shows the Homeless Empowerment Program and the Avenues for Homeless Youth to be among the top charities. If you’re going to donate through an organization, research the rankings of the places online and in your area.
But what do you do the next time you’re asked for money on the streets? If you can, ask the person what they really need. If it’s food, try and buy them something nearby. If you don’t really have the time to go anywhere yourself, order them food from your preferred delivery app and let the homeless person and delivery driver know the situation. It may be the more expensive choice, but it can deter the chance of them using the money to hurt themselves through drinking and doing drugs.
When money is attached to a specific course of action, it makes it difficult to be taken advantage of. For example, food stamps are only able to be exchanged for food. Just like a Taco Bell gift card is only accepted at Taco Bell. Regular dollars can be used for anything, with no limit to where it can be spent.
For those venturing near University Avenue across the University of Florida campus, a small gift card from a fast food restaurant may be the easiest way to ensure the money you donate is spent on something to help a homeless person. It may not be a very nutritious option, but it is healthier for their bodies than harmful substances.
Choosing how to give can be a difficult decision, especially when you’re a broke college student who just spent hundreds of dollars on an electronic textbook. Saving up “free” coupons from your local newspaper or coupon book can be given to homeless people when they come up to you asking for money.
The options for donating to the homeless are almost endless, but some bring your dollar farther than others. Researching your options could help you help others better.
Amanda Martinez is a senior telecommunication major. Her columns usually appear on Tuesdays.