Handing up campaign has its pros and cons

Cartoon+by+Greer+Smith

Cartoon by Greer Smith

Living outside of DC in a highly-populated area, we have all had some sort of exposure to people who are homeless. Often, one feels compelled to put some money in an outstretched cup or extended hand for a fellow human down on his or her luck. Apparently, that is not the way to go.

Sadly, there are people who take advantage of those who give money to homeless. They pose as homeless with fake stories scrawled on signs. They are not the people one wants the money going to.

According to the official Montgomery County website, people should not give handouts to panhandlers because one can never know if the person is truly homeless and collecting money for a beneficial purpose. Instead, the county recommends residents donate to charities.

The new campaign “Give a hand-up, not a hand-out,” urges people to text “SHARE” to 80077. This will donate $5 to a organizations that help the homeless so one can be positive his or her money is going to a good cause.

This is absolutely a good idea. It makes it easy for people to give to charity and every time someone sees a person who is homeless, he or she will have a reminder to do this. Also, many people often only give change or a dollar or two, so $5 from each text could really make a difference.

According to a November 2013 Montgomery County survey, 47 percent of homeless residents have a serious health issue and 23 percent were tri-morbid, which means they have mental and physical problems as well as a history of substance abuse.

Many people who are homeless have greater needs than $2 handed out in a day can meet, which is why donating to a charity can be so beneficial to them.

Though the promotion of the charity initiative is a good idea because it helps to keep con artists from mooching off the generosity of others, as well as providing money to support people who are homeless with medical needs, there are some setbacks.

Some people really are homeless and cannot afford shelter or their next meal and depend on the help of others each day. If people just stop giving out help all together, some who are not able to make use of the charities immediately will be at a loss.

The best thing to do is to stop giving money, and instead give out supplies. Residents can give out water bottles, sandwiches, apples, and other items a charity might provide that a real homeless person could make use of. This way, if a person is in need of immediate help, he or she can get it.

Though a charity may help these people, it cannot help them instantaneously or necessarily every day. Panhandling allows for some quick daily relief, so giving out something to help these people should not end.

Also, let us not forget: knowledge is power. Some people who are homeless are not aware of what charities there are and the help they offer. Those who wish to help the homeless should educate themselves on charities so they might give out information to people who are homeless. Information is available on www.montgomerycountymd.gov/panhandling.

Some have less than others, and it is nice to help out, but it is good to know different ways to help. Giving to charities one trusts is always a good way to help out, but also nice gestures in person can be beneficial too. It is just important to make sure that the gesture is helping someone who really needs it.