Do you have any spare change?

Do you have any spare change?

How are you supposed to answer that? Of course I do. I have fifty cents in my bag and another dollar in my wallet. Do I need it? Not really. I could fairly easily part with it.

But how do you answer the request, usually from a homeless person? Some people like to answer ‘no,’ and quickly walk away, rationalizing that free hand outs won’t help anyone. And there might be some truth to that. But part of me thinks that’s just a nice excuse to clear your conscience and walk away guilt-free.

My standard answer is to pat my pockets and mumble something like, “No, sorry, I don’t,” –which is usually a lie. I’d have to dig that fifty cents out of my bag and I’d be two minutes late for work. Even though I get there ten minutes early every day. There’s one guy I recognize. He always stands on the corner of ninth street in front of the closed-up porno shop. A bag sits on the ground next to him and he stands there with his hands in his pockets, looking rather purposeful. Twice he’s asked me for change, but he hasn’t asked recently. He must recognize me and figured two times was plenty. Now when I see him I’ve taken to keeping my eyes on the pavement and not making eye contact.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way. Is it a good idea to give fifty cent handouts? Does that accomplish anything? Is there a way I can help these people more? I saw a guy standing on the corner of a shopping plaza holding a sign that said he needed work. Are jobs that scarce? Sometimes I wonder if these homeless people truly have gotten a bum deal (no pun intended), or if they’re just lazy. I understand that it’s difficult to get a job when you have no place to stay, but is it really as bad as that? And if so, isn’t there a more reliable way I can help then giving you my spare change? It just seems like we need a better solution.

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