Do we have a responsibility to help the homeless?

· Philosophy

Yesterday while waiting for the bus, a homeless guy asked me if I could give him a bus ticket or pass or cash because he had lost his ticket. He said when you’re homeless it’s hard to keep track of stuff. I didn’t have the right change for the bus, so I didn’t help him, but I think someone else did because he did get on the bus after a few minutes. My question is: Should I have helped him? I know in the Bible it says to help those in need, but does that apply in these circumstances? I can’t afford to help ten on the off chance that I’ll have helped the one who is sincere and is having bad luck through no fault of his own. And should we help people who are sincere victims only, or should we help people who have brought their bad luck on themselves? i felt guilty about not helping him, although I didn’t really have enough change.


Some people say that we should never regret being kind, and I definitely agree with this point. We also should never judge whether or not someone brought a situation of homelessness onto themselves. A friend of mine raised that point when I discussed this with her and I think it’s a fair point. The truth in any situation is very complicated, especially one as tragic and complex as this one. My wise friend also pointed out that there is more than one way to help a person and that financial assistance is only one way. We can treat everyone with respect and dignity, enter into convesation with someone, regardless of their living accommodations, or lack thereof. Listening quietly while they explain their circumstances is a good start, especially if we honestly do not have the money on hand to help them.


Something else occurred to me. These guys probably ask women because women are nicer in these situations often than men, but it also places the woman in an awkward spot, because depending on the circumstances, it can be kind of a dangerous encounter for a woman. Maybe in that situation it is okay to judge, when in cases of self-protection, although we also should not just assume that someone is going to hurt us just because they have fallen on hard times. What do you think, should we help people on the street when they ask for spare change?





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