Spare Change

So being out on the road we always come across situations that we don’t normally come across when we are home. One thing we’ve noticed especially lately is that almost every time we leave the hotel we are seeing/experiencing a lot of folks who are living on the streets.

People asking for a dollar. People asking for spare change.

It’s something we’ve talked about quite a bit…when someone asks for money we want to help. We are very fortunate to have jobs, places to live, etc. and it is easy to grab the change in your pocket or a couple bucks, hand it over and walk away. At the same time, you never know what that money is actually being used for and you don’t know if you are helping or not. So we’ve gotten into the habit of offering food in place of money.

We had a funny encounter today…we walked passed a gentlemen who had a sign that in big, bold writing said “WEED, SEX” and something else….he was sporting a giant hat that had marijuana leaves on it…he was quite a character. As we walked past he looked right at us, held up his sign and said, “Anyone wanna help me get SH!T-faced?” He said it loud and proud…we laughed…and continued walking…ha…at least he was being honest.’s not easy to know what to say/do sometimes. What do you do when you encounter people asking you for money?


20 Responses to “Spare Change”

  1. aberran Says:

    I came across this a lot when I lived in San Diego for grad school. I always offer food if I am to offer anything. When I lived in Philadelphia there was always this one guy that sat outside the 7/11 across from City Hall, smart man.

  2. The Meryl Streep Project Says:

    There are so many homeless people here in Kansas city. I don’t give money….I give food. Usually taco bell. That shit sits like a brick in your stomach for days. Some people are really appreciative while others don’t even say thank you haha.

    Around Christmas time Starbucks has a happy hour where you buy a holiday drink and get one free. I always take advantage of that.

    I feel bad questioning the motives of homeless people. But unfortunately the kind of society we live in isn’t exactly an honest one.

  3. Momo Says:

    Although being a student is hard itself, I’ve gotten into the habit of giving food to them when I can. I’ve heard stories where people beg for money as a “side job” and I’ve heard about the undercover episode where these “bums” weren’t really homeless so giving them money isn’t my thing anymore.

  4. Alison Says:

    That guy is funny!!

    I usually don’t give Money either, I just say sorry and keep walking. I feel like there are places that will provide meals to those on the street and can give them the support they need to get back on their feet and help them and I would rather support those causes. Although sometimes I feel a little guilty about it.

    I have however encountered a man in New York with a similar sign saying he wanted to buy alcohol or something (I can’t remember exactly) so I gave him $2 for being honest and because it amused me!!

  5. Teri Ann Says:

    If I feel in my heart I should help someone out and give someone what I can, then I do it. I’ve always been taught we’re not here to judge, if you can help then great if you can’t its totally understandable. God will judge us by the act not what the person used the money for. I give the money and pray they use it for the right reasons.

  6. Alexandria Says:

    I have seen that you guys are in San Fran. I live in the Bay Area and that guy with the sign is a common. Whenever I go to the City as we call it, there is people with the drug and alcohol signs. I appreciate the honesty just like you did. I always give them money if I have it. Bush man has to be my favorite though. You can find him on youtube. He goes around scaring people and if he makes you laugh most people give him money. I am like you though and if they ask for food, ill buy them food instead of giving them money. Momo I have seen those episodes exposing them as fakes actually. Some of them make more than I do.

  7. Christina K Says:

    Since I almost ALWAYS carry around food with me (fast metabolism), whenever I see any homeless person, I usually end up giving them whatever I have. I’ve had bad encounters (they look at the sandwich and swear at it and throw it away) and good encounters (the look on their face can brighten me for weeks) but I do try to do whatever I can. Good for you two for giving food! Continue your good work 🙂

  8. Susan Webster Griffen Says:

    My feeling is that you can’t save everyone, this is what I have tried to instill in my children. You can select whom you help, and although it’s hard not to feel guilty every time you choose NOT to help/give, be secure in your choices and try to remember that you are doing what you can–and be sure to do all you can! I do admire creativity, people who are needy yet try to give something back (like your funny guy, although not sure I’d support his cause!).

  9. jenbug1988 Says:

    I had a bad experience when I was 10 where being the good “girl guide” I was I went to give a homeless guy some money, I got returned by him swiping all of my birthday money, put me in a certain mindset for a good few years, now I just give them food.

  10. Myriam Says:

    I majored in Human Development and one of the courses I took was about poverty in LA. Our professor brought in a candid interview between a homeless man and police officer for us to go over, and the homeless man (I can’t remember his name), flat out said not to give money to people asking for it. He said most of the time they use that money for drugs, mouthwash, etc. (Mouthwash is cheaper than alcohol, so some just go and buy that instead.) Anyhow, if I have food on me when I see someone, I’ll give them my food instead of money. Once, I offered this guy my food instead of money, but he didn’t want it.

  11. iamcynthia Says:

    I live in San Francisco, so sadly I encounter that a lot. I would love to give money to everyone who needs it, but if I did I’d go broke fast! It’s not the nicest way to handle the situation but this is the way I do it…. I judge the book by its cover. If they look like they truly need it (not for booze…etc.) I will give a little if I can. If they have an animal, I have been known to go in the store and buy a $2 or so can of dog food and give it to them. Also, I do something that a lot of San Franciscans do, and that is, when you go to a restuarant and don’t finish your meal, you put the rest in a to-go box and set it on top of the city trash can. This is done so the homeless person doesn’t have to dig through the trash for food you’ve thrown away. I do what I can. Yes, I’d LOVE to help everyone, but it’s just not possible. 😦

  12. Kevin M. Conley Says:

    you get that at Portland and Manchester! i get ask everyday here and when i was Manchester buying soda, i got ask!but later that day i end up barfing it up!so , as you know didn’t make concert!

  13. Kevin M. Conley Says:

    p.s i only use my credit card so i never have any chance!

  14. Christine Johnson Says:

    Oddly enough I encountered this last Friday. I hardly ever give out spare change or dollars when I’m driving in my car or when I encountered people on the drag at UT Austin. I was at an intersection Friday and a man held out a sign that said, “I hate doing this but I’m hungry.” I felt so bad, but the light turned green so I had to keep moving. I had a to-go order full of fajitas and chips that I was gonna bring my friend. I really felt compelled to give this to him and I knew my friend would forgive me. I made a U-turn and he had already crossed the street to join his friend who was also holding out a sign. So, I made another U-turn, parked my car at the gas station, and walked to the edge of the grass at the intersection. I held up the bag and motioned him over. He crossed the street and I said, “Here, I have a bag of fajitas for you and your buddy.” He said, “Thank you, bless your heart.” I said, “You too” mostly because I couldn’t think of anything else to say in that moment. We parted our ways and now I can cross that off of my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to give a homeless person food and now I can say that I have. The opportunity presented itself and I felt called to help.

  15. Selena Says:

    You’re right. It can be difficult to determine what their true intents are for the requested money. There’s probably plenty of people who really are just trying to gather enough for necessities, but there’s likely a lot wanting it for things that aren’t in their best interests too, whether or not they’re forthcoming with that information. So, depending on your choice, you may or may not actually help either way. The food offer seems to be a pretty good choice though. I guess go with your gut, and hope for the best.

  16. califilmgirl Says:

    This topic reminds me of my dad. 🙂 When I was younger and still to this day, when he sees a homeless person asking for money he’ll ask them what they would like to eat instead and try to get it for them. If it was not readily available he would ask if there was something else and get that. We would always stay and chat for a little while. If there request continued to be for money or if they were honest and said drugs or alcohol he would kindly say he couldn’t help and we would leave.

    Most of the people we came in contact with were left smiling as we went along. I’m not sure many of them had been treated with respect and that was the main thing my dad wanted them to feel. That even though they were not in a great place that they were still respected.

    Now that I’m older and able to help as well I try to do the same thing. Where I live now there is a gentleman who goes to the same spot every week or so and has a dog. He’s mentally a little slow but the kindest man I’ve met in a long time. When he’s not asking for money you can see him sitting down and doting on his dog. I started bringing him extra shirts for himself and food and a brush for his dog. Small things that he’d be able to use. The smile on his face for the gifts for his dog was the biggest and brightest I’ve seen in a very long time. I haven’t seen him in a while and do hope that he’s alright and that he knows he’s an awesome human being.

    One last thing and I’ll end this long winded post. My church back home also ran a soup kitchen and clothing swap every Saturday. To help get the word out they printed up business cards with the time and dates they were open so that members could pass them out. I gave them out whenever I could and there were a few times when I was helping out that I would see a few of them stop by. It worked really well and something that’s easy to pass out even if you don’t have any money or food to hand out at the time, at least you can help them find help.

  17. Jaclyn Says:

    I was once approached (while with a group of friends) on a busy street at night by an older man. We were leaving a bar and he was asking for money of course, but he was wearing a leather jacket and carrying a briefcase. I told him I didn’t have any cash (and I didn’t) but he wouldn’t leave me alone. Luckily the bouncer from the bar shooed him away. I don’t even want to know what was in that briefcase.

    There are almost always panhandlers on the streets in the city but I usually don’t even have enough money for myself, so I just ignore them. I feel bad sometimes, but I don’t even know what they’re going to use the money on and I would feel even worse if I was perpetuating someone’s drinking or drug problems :/

  18. Jake Leinweber Says:

    It’s so tough! College student…who doesn’t ask parents for money…spare change is helpful anytime 🙂 But exactly, there is always the problem of not knowing what that money is going to be spent on if you help them.

    I would rather help them become a contributing member of society in any way I can because if they found a purpose again or just at all, I think that would really turn around their situation.

  19. Ashley Sweatman Says:

    Its so common n my area dat i jus say im broke. Bt its alwys da same faces so wn i c a nw 1 if im fortunate 2 hv xtra $$ i will gv all my pocket chng cuz my grndmother use 2 say “u never kno u cud b gvn’ 2 God”!! Da faces i c on a daily basis r winos!!

  20. Sunny Says:

    I can relate to this very situation happening to me and I actually typed in google “people asking for spare change” because I seem to encounter this on a if not daily but weekly basis of people asking me for change in front of the grocery store.

    At first I used to give because I could see the person was actually all dirty and living on the streets, but now a days I see teenagers and college students wearing the latest ipod and new sneakers asking for spare change with a smurk on their face as if it is a joke to them.

    Young women and young men who look like they are just hanging out are constantly asking for change to get something to eat or to get on the bus, I have even asked some of them if they have family who can help them and they all say no and that they can’t find a job.
    I am a little suspect in these kind of situations, so I do not give out change anymore.

    Once I gave some money to a pregnant woman who asked me and she was bare foot and looked as if someone had dropped her off in front of the grocery store so I felt bad for her, but it is so hard to know if they are really needing the money or if they are just con artists abusing the system and taking advantage of peoples kindness.

    I have always been a kind hearted person but now I am careful not to get burned by those who make a job out of taking advantage of others.

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