Hollie Homeless Advice Column

Hi Hollie,

When someone on the street asks me for change, I often give them $5-$20.

There are rumors on the internet of how giving cash to folks on the street can be anywhere from unhelpful to dangerous, but it’s hard for me to not see the person I’m talking to as a responsible adult who genuinely needs money for essential services. Is that just fear- mongering, or is it really not helpful for me to give people cash?

I also donate to causes that are working on more robust solutions and programs (hey Street Sheet!) but it’s hard for me to not give money to people who ask, since I have that privilege now (thanks to a lucky break that landed me a job in tech) and I hate capitalism.


Bleeding Heart Anti-Capitalist



Dear BHAC,

It’s great that you donate to nonprofits (and also buy Street Sheet!). It’s totally OK to give cash to homeless people without reservation. Ignore the fear-mongering you hear. One thing to keep in mind is that the $5 or $20 you give is helping that person meet an immediate need, whether it’s a cheeseburger from McDonald’s, bus/train fare or a pack of cigarettes. Also, even if the person might get SNAP benefits (aka, food stamps) on their EBT card, there are limitations on what they are allowed to buy. For example,  a young mother can not buy diapers for the baby with their card, so they have to get cash. The amount from any public benefits is so paltry that it’s understandable that they’d have to spare-change to augment it.

One more thing: I believe that once a person gives money to someone who asks on the street, it’s no longer their business what is done with it. Any concerns of deserving/undeserving should be dispensed with.

Mark Horvath, the homeless advocate behind the Invisible TV video project, also validates free money-giving here: https://bit.ly/2q1ESLA.