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Should you give money to homeless people?

Charities give their take on it: “If your choice is not to give to a person, you should at least acknowledge them when they ask you a question.”

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IT IS A complex question; whether or not to give money to homeless people or homeless services.

For some people, the argument is that giving to charity ensures that the money is spent on longer-term programmes and avoids it being spent on alcohol or drugs.

For others, that’s not a judgement that can be made by them. If a person wants to spend whatever change they garner from begging on drink, then that’s their business.

But what do the experts think?

For Francis Doherty of the Peter McVerry Trust, the issue is complicated, but the important thing is remember that homeless people are more the latter half of that phrase.

“We would say that the most important thing is to acknowledge people. If your choice is not to give to a person, you should at least acknowledge them when they ask you a question.”

And what of people who prefer to buy food directly for homeless people.

“It is helpful, it’s a good thing to do.

But for some rough sleepers, there is an outreach service, so food might not be the issue. If the person has a difficulty staying in a dorm-type hostel, they may be trying to get a room in a B&B or a single room in a hostel.

Mostly, though, Doherty says, it’s not a black and white issue and however someone chooses to donate to homeless people is appreciated.

“It’s not straightforward and every person is different.

“If people are engaged and engaging with people on the street, that’s the main thing as long as the intention is good.”

Earlier this week, we asked if you give money directly to people you see on the street and believe to be homeless.

The results were interesting. While the largest group of those of you who took part said ‘No’ (47%), a quarter (24%) said ‘Yes’. A significant number (18%) give to charities working with homeless people, while 10% say they prefer to give other items – not cash – to people directly.


It seems that many of you are wary of what you feel might be organised begging, by people who might have support from elsewhere.

There were suggestions too that while there are “chancers”, the best course of action might be to “talk to them and see for yourself what they need, if it’s money fair enough, but maybe a sandwich or a coffee might help them more”.

Read the rest of our Homeless Ireland 2014 series

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