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The Homeless Guy at Subway

On Friday, we went over to Subway to get a bite to eat, and while we were eating a fellow walked over to our table.

“Would you mind sparing a quarter or 50 cents so I can get a bite to eat?”

The first thing that naturally crossed my mind was what this man could possibly buy for 50 cents that would be remotely filling. Maybe an 8th of a Subway sandwich?

Naturally, my mind progressed and I wondered if he was really going to get food, or just buy alcohol or something. Of course, that’s the moment when you look around at the people who are watching.

It’s at this point that you either have to say “no” or “here’s a buck.”

So I gave him two bucks and he was on his way. I saw him as we left smoking a cigarette, so I knew I had made the wrong choice.

Next time, I think I’ll ask the person questions. Like, what could you possibly get to eat for only 25 cents? And gladly hand the fellow a quarter. I’ll say “here you go!”

And deep inside, I’ll feel good knowing that he could have just as easily found that much money in a wishing pond. Maybe I should try the opposite approach, and exclaim that I’m from the Dept. of Weights and Measures, and we’ve been looking for a bright person to hire to measure peoples generosity. I could ask him for money instead and turn the tables.

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16 Comments

  1. There is an alternative–other than the one you already mentioned–that is a win for everyone. Instead of just forking over two bucks, which as you have demonstrated is the wrong choice, or you alternative which is essentially kicking a man while he is down; you could ask him to sit, and order a meal for him. If he is just looking for the money he’ll beg off, but if he is really hungry…well.

  2. Yeah, I actually tried that once. A guy asked for money to buy a sandwich (this was as I walked out with a slice of pizza). I told him I’d buy him some pizza and he flat out refused. Strange. I love pizza!!

  3. Most people that are hungry will go get food/find a soup kitchen/etc, it is rare for people to beg for money for food. It does happen, but in most metro areas there’s lots of places they can go to get food so they’re more likely begging for money to buy the things they want rather than need.

    Interesting side story. In england they have a paper produced for homeless people to sell. They can go pick up a stack and sell them to make money. Once a friend was feeling generous and bought a single paper for 20 pounds. The homeless man in question didn’t say thank you, but simply left the other papers and walked off. He could have gone on selling papers for the rest of the morning and made more money for himself, but since someone gave him enough to cover his day, he simply quit.

    Give to charities, don’t give to beggars. The majority of the time your money is not helping them.

  4. The place I work at is always looking for people to work in our warehouse. It’s not heavy lifting or hard work, just simple clerical things. Shifting product around, packing orders, whatever. For a long time whenever someone asked me for money I’d offer them a job. I know $80 for a day’s work isn’t going to buy their dream home or anything but when you’re asking for a spare dollar to get something to eat it would seem like a pretty good offer no?

    Nobody ever took me up on it and it seemed to at least irritate most people and pissed a fair number of them off. Maybe they thought I was trying to be coy and tell them to work for a living but I was just trying to help.

    I stopped bothering and just tell people no now.

  5. What’s so wrong with buying cigarettes. I go many days until dinner time just having coffee and nothing to eat. Nicotine is an appetite suppressant and there are 20 in a pack.

    I am not a very generous person when it comes to begging on the street. But I think that giving has more to do with the giver than the taker. It isn’t our responsibility to monitor what someone does with what we give them, its more about the attitude which you give.

  6. I struggle with this all the time, and in fact I was solicited by someone at Subway earlier tonight myself! When I was 19, I spent the summer in Chicago, a homeless man came up to me and asked me for money. So we went to the sandwich shop together, I bought him a sandwich, and I gave him $20. He was really thankful and said this would make all the difference. Just two days later, we ran into each other on the street again and he just asked me for more money. He didn’t even recognize me. It dawned on me that, like some of the other commenters above pointed out, the main problem doesn’t appear to be lack of money but a problem with leveraging accumulated savings or capitalizing on opportunities. It’s very sad, though. They may be homeless, but they’re still people, and even though I decline to give them money now, I still always feel bad about it.

  7. I *live* in Chicago, and ask myself this question every time I go downtown. There’s no good answer. I’ve pretty much come down on the side of, if they want help, it’s availible, and while I could give them a buck, I can’t fix their real problems.

    True story– first time I ran into one of these guys I asked if he had change for a 20. He gave me this funny look and was like, “Dude, I’m HOMELESS!” I felt like a stupid, awful person for a looooong time.

  8. I lived in South Africa for a period of time. There were plenty of people there who were hungry and starving on the streets. I almost never made it home from a restaurant with leftovers because people were more than happy to take it.

    Then there were others you could tell were begging for a job. I overheard a guy i saw all the time talking about what a dissapointing morning he was having by only making $75 (500 rand) by 11am.

    You never know.

  9. Dito to what everyone else said, but i never give money. I give out cards that I got form the homeles shelter that tells them where to go and find food, a shower, clothes and a warm place to sleep. In good consicence, you should NEVER give money to a beggar as they will almost every time buy vices.

    AND NOW A QUOTE COMING FROM MY FORMERLY HOMELESS FRIEND: The drugs or booze you buy, help you to cope with the situation. Yes, food is easy enough to get and so is shelter, and yes, we buy vices with the money, but sometimes you wanna buy your own damned underwear too…

  10. Everyone has a story it’s amazing! When I was still living in Phoenix I had to get up uber early one morning to go to an Army Band gig. So I popped into my nearby 7-11 for a red bull and other breakfast whatnots. While I was there I was approached by a woman who said she was trying to get a ride down to Tempe or somewhere, we where up on Glendale and I-17. I said I was unable to help her but gave her $10 for a cab. But no sooner had I given her the money and pulled away onto the freeway did I see her meeting some guy on the overpass and walking the opposite way! The nerve.

    Oh and as for what a quarter can buy, nothing! Well it used to buy one hamburger from Burger King, remember when that came back for like 5 minutes a few years ago? Anyhoo, I was getting a red bull the other day (note reoccurring theme) and a disheveled man was at the counter with a quarter in his hand. You can’t obviously buy anything for a quarter so I bought him the largest cup of coffee they offered and he kept the change.

    Overall, I am with Josh, I will always feel bad when I don’t help or give to someone asking for help, regardless of their real motive. I remember handing out bottles of water, leftovers, and MREs from my truck whenever I was approached by people. Tangible goods are really all I can give these days.

    Sorry this was so long. I guess we are as passionate about serving others as we are about design.

  11. I hate beggars or even worse the people who just flat out lie, I don’t know how many times I have seen a guy sitting in an intersection with a sign and I notice he has on new sneakers. Also I had this guy come up to me at a drive thru fast food place and with his gas can in hand told me he ran out of gas and his car was on the nearby freeway. Well the funny part about the story is the same exact guy a few weeks later came up to my car again at the same drive thru and gave me the same story.

    I never give money to beggars or people who claim they need money for gas, simply for one reason it is not my problem that they can not provide for themselves.

  12. Austin hit the nail on the head: its about the giver, not the taker. All we can do is what your heart tells you to do.

    Most of the time I am encountered by this, I stop and pray and if I feel that Jesus is telling me to do something, then I’ll listen, but if not, then I move on.

    For me, it’s more about listening to what Jesus is saying and how He’s moving in my life – that will touch someone more than just giving them a 20 spot.

    Just love people.

  13. I have had that situation come up a few times where i have an overwhelming “feeling” regarding someones situation. Lessons in obedience i suppose.

    You can sit in church all day long, but in the real world if you feel like you are being spoken to and dont do anything then who are you really.

    Beliefs are what you think you would do, while values lie in what actually happens. but thats a whole different discussion altogether.

  14. I give every time I’m asked. If they buy booze or cigs or drugs with it, more power to them. I know that if I was in a situation where I couldn’t get my life together — whether “couldn’t” was due to some physical ailment, some mental problem, or some emotional immaturity (irresponsibility or whatever) — I’d still want to be helped, even if that help was going to something to ease my pain.

    I also make a point to look them in the eye and shake hands whenever possible. As bad as life on the street has to be, I’m sure the thing that would be worst for me is the lack of human contact.

    Sure, 95% of the time (or more) their stories are lies, but if I was depressed and miserable and unable to take care of myself (and again, “unable” includes not having the fortitude to do so), I sure wouldn’t be telling people that I want money to buy booze, ’cause of course I’d never get any.

    I figure that if God gave them LIFE, I sure as heck can spare some bucks, and that my gift will always completely pale by comparison. Who am I to say someone doesn’t deserve my help when God says they deserve life, a body, soul, air to breathe, etc.?

  15. the lowest Rings in Hell are researved for those, who in times of great need, choose to do nothing.

    The Divine Comedy

  16. A “homeless” drug addicted girl was begging aggressively at my bus stop. I was sick of her and didn’t want her joining me every day, so while I was waiting for the bus, I stood behind her and when she asked for money, I added, “She needs to buy heroin”. She gave up in two days and moved on.

    Another guy was on a corner I passed daily. He was dressed nicely and didn’t look homeless. His sob story was he was robbed and needed a dollar to take the subway home. He was very believable. He hit me once. I didn’t give him money, but a couple days later – he hit me again. I told him I’d gotten the story two days before. Then when I saw him working tourists on the corner, if I had time, I’d stand with him and tell people not to believe him that he was just lying to get their money. He stopped coming also.