Though the bribe be small, yet the fault is great. – Edward Coke
This week Manchester, New Hampshire, police issued a statement to the public requesting they not give money to panhandlers as doing so may contribute to death by overdose to the very person they think they’re helping. In the past year Manchester has experienced 24 overdoses with 6 deaths.
While I’m not sure withholding handouts will fix the overdose problem, what I do know is that giving cash to drug addicts certainly won’t!
We recommend our students not engage panhandlers.
– First, because your number one job is to get home safely to the people you have a responsibility towards. Starting a relationship on the street with a person who has a high probability of substance abuse or mental illness increases your risk of personal injury. The homeless are primed for violence, if for no other reason than the survival mode they exist in.
– Second, giving them money is really about our egos. We give them a dollar, then pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for being such great people! I notice that few of us, if any, ever invite them home to live with us. All that dollar does is feed their alcohol or drug habit. We’re enabling.
– Third, if the person looks to be in actual distress, call the police. It’s why you pay taxes.
If you really want to get involved, join a charity or church group that works with the homeless, then you can at least interact when you’re not alone. And when searching for a conduit to devote your charity to, look for a proven track record of results. Handing money to beggars has been a historical failure.
Help is available if they need food – there are shelters and food banks all over this nation. But, most don’t need food, they need psychological treatment. So, unless you’re a psychiatrist looking to do pro bono work, funding transients on the street is participation as a willing victim in a passive mugging.
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. – Carl Jung