After living in a homeless shelter for the last nine months I have a way different view of the homeless than I had before. And I still don't hand out money.
A few years ago in Montreal I used to see a severely disabled man sitting in the metro/subway with a cup and a sign. He was so disabled he needed someone to get him into the station. And during the day he would need to use the washroom, and eat but there was never anyone there. He often would be there for hours. And yup people would give him money. Well one day I saw someone come to get him. n abled body person came to take him home. I guess home.
Well there was no way this man in his wheelchair was going to roll himself off to the local store to spend whatever money he had recieved. His "caretaker" would pocket the money. And then take the man back to his place only to repeat this day after day. People with disabilities were getting a lot of free services plus a reasonable amount of money from the government. The disabled man didn't need the money. He was being taken care of. It was the friend who was using him to rake in the bucks. No way was I going to contribute to this friend taking advantage of someone's disability.
Another time I was sitting in Macdonalds and a man was going around to all the tables handing out a card that said he was deaf and could they spare some change. People were emptying their pocket and change purses to give this guy some money. Well... when he approached me I started talking to him in sign language. Now if he only lipread he would have understood me. If he used sign he definitely would have understood me.
He took one look at me signing to him, spun around and headed out the door. Beside the MacD's was a KFC. I watched as he went behind the KFC and met with two women. He spoke to them and they all got into the car (convertible and newer model) and drove off.
Both of those experiences occured many years ago.
Then I moved to Winnipeg and actually worked in a homeless shelter. Winnipeg does not have enough shelters for everyone. But if they need to put people up they will haul out the mats and fill up the floor so people can have a place to sleep. The shelter I was working at served poor quality food. Most of it was awful. Now and then people got a good meal, usually though just the holidays. There were soup kitchens people could go to and they were actually pretty good. And if a person brought a container they could take as much of the soup as they could carry. Snacks (most often day old donuts from the donut shops) were almost always available. Certainly not healthy but edible. People could be banned from a shelter for aggressive and/or destructive behavior. But as long as they follwed the rules they had a place to sleep. Also homeless people could get their welfare cheques even though they had no permanent address. So they weren't too bad off. Certainly not a great living mut manageable if they obeyed the rules.
Mothers with children always had a place to stay. If the shelter was full, the family would be put in a hotel until a room was available in the shelter or they found a place to live. Children were never, ever placed in a room with other people. This was for their safety.
Now, after being in the shelter have my eyes ever been opened.
Ottawa takes care of the homeless. A person could spend all day going from one free meal to the next. I knew one fellow that was quite proud of the fact that he never had to buy food. He just made the rounds all day long. The money he got was spent on cigarettes.
The food here in the shelters is awesome. Healthy and good. Some places offer better food than others but everyone who came back from a free meal told me it was great. I never had to use a free meal. I was well fed where I was in the shelter. While I was there I had to be careful with my money. But I had enough to get what I needed. Granted I was in one of the better shelters. And I followed the rules. People who didn't follow the rules would have to go to one of the other shelters.
What I find really sad is that most of the people who make homelessness a lifestyle seem to have no desire for anything else. They compalin about what they get and that it isn't enough but have zero desire to do anything to change how they live.
Handing them money just seems like I am supporting their lifestyle. They get the same money I do. But they keep breaking the rules and choosing to take hand-outs instead of hand-ups.
More than once I saw someone who had a room down the hall from me sitting on a curb somewhere asking for money.
I agree many have mental health issues. But in Ottawa they do get taken care of. That isn't the case in all cities but here there is no excuse for begging for money