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Should you give money to beggars?
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They may not feel pressure to save

The amount of money made on the streets varies day to day, but each dollar earned in a day may reduce the incentive to save.


The amount of money a panhandler makes per hour varies between locations.[1] One man in New York reported making $200 a day by sitting with his dog.[2] Other times, a daily or hourly income is $0. Exact numbers vary and are difficult to track down. Does living dollar to dollar and day to day disincentivize a homeless person to keep savings? Can a beggar even earn an excess amount of money to put towards savings, and should givers help them do so?

The Argument

Panhandling may not provide a steady income, but because panhandling is income (albeit unsteady income) homeless people may not feel pressure to save. Homeless people need cash to feed, clothe, and house themselves day to day. Given the uncertain, fluctuating situation they find themselves in, homeless people may not be incentivized to save extra income, rather, they will likely use the extra income on just one more necessity that can improve their life at the moment[3]. The inability to save money for the long-term means that by giving cash, you may also be helping a beggar feed his or her substance addiction. It has been reported that six out of ten homeless people suffer from addiction; at the same time, they lack the funds that could be put towards rehabilitation[3]. One study from Good magazine found that when given extra money and plenty of guidance on how to invest and manage their budget, the overwhelming majority of homeless people who participated were off the streets within a year; several had also sought treatment for their addictions[4]. Without this encouragement and guidance - which a $20 bill from a passing stranger could not give you - these beggars would not have had much of an incentive to leave the streets. Instead of giving money directly to beggars, which provides only a short-term solution to the long-term problem of poverty and homelessness in the United States, it is more useful to donate to charities that specialize in finding shelter and steady jobs for homeless people.

Counter arguments

It is not that the homeless population does not want to save money either; it's that they cannot. Without a residential address, it is extraordinarily difficult to open a bank account, and banks may charge fees that homeless people may not be able to afford[5]. Panhandling is not a steady income. It is not that homeless people are disincentivized to save, it is that from daily costs of living, they do not make enough income to even collect savings. Furthermore, savings may be stolen or lost when living in a hazardous environment. A homeless person's environment may not allow them the luxury of saving money, even if they wanted to.



People who are homeless are irresponsible and cannot manage their money.


[P1] Panhandling is an easy, steady source of income. [P2] Receiving an easy income and living in dangerous situations reduces a homeless person’s incentive to save their money.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 1 Jul 2020 at 23:41 UTC

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