What Should You Do When Someone Asks You For Money On the Street?

Part 2: St. Vincent de Paul staff members weigh in

Previously, we shared a couple of insights with you from St. Vincent de Paul staff about how they respond to people when asked for money on the street. We know this can be a sensitive situation, as many might feel uncomfortable or simply not know the best way to respond. This week you’ll hear from SVdP’s Director of Shelter Services and our Assistant Dining Rooms Manager.


Mike Bell

Mike Bell
Director of Shelter Services
Years at SVdP: 30

I don’t imagine that the lives of people who ask for money are easy, but I believe there are pros and cons regarding giving money to them. Personally, I like to give money to organizations that help those in need, like St. Vincent de Paul. I believe these organizations are helping people to sustainably change their lives for the better, yet I know that charities cannot meet all of the need that exists. I hope that when people choose to give out money, they are aware of their surroundings and don’t expose themselves to risk by opening their wallets or purses in places where no help would be available if things go wrong. Also, potential givers should be aware that asking for money is prohibited in certain places, such as Valley Metro stops. I bicycle and spend a lot of time in areas where individuals ask for money, and I carry little or no cash. If I don’t want to give money to someone who asks me, rather than go past and ignore him, I will look at the person and kindly say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any money.” Typically, the person will respond politely with “God bless you” or “Have a nice day,” and then move on to the next person. Though I don’t always know the reason the person is asking for money, I am confident that most don’t expect everyone to give money. It hurts them, though, to be treated as a non-person, not worthy of an answer. I think giving out cards listing charity services or food coupons is a good alternative, but the giver should not be surprised if those are not appreciated when an individual is trying to raise money.


Danielle Ricketts

Danielle McMahon
Director of Food Services
Years at SVdP: 5 years

I work with homeless individuals on a daily basis, and I think I may tend to do things differently when I encounter a person in need on the street. Because of the work I do, I usually have other resources handy in my car that I can give to them instead of money. If you have worked at St. Vincent de Paul long enough, or at least in my case, your garage and the trunk of your car can often double as an ‘SVdP donation drop-off center.’ My first instinct is to not give out money. I try to give them a resource instead, whether it’s a granola bar from my glove box or a bottle of water. I also tend to have donated items in my car from friends, family and neighbors, that I will hand out as needed. At SVdP, we have the ‘Need a Hand’ cards that are great to hand out. I like to keep these handy in my car and wallet. I have given these cards to friends, family members, and volunteers that have compassion in their hearts to stop and say ‘hi’ and respond to those in need. Some of our volunteers have even gotten together with friends to make small care packages that they can grab from their backseat to hand out to those in need. Or just a friendly ‘hello’ can go a long way in making someone’s day just a little bit better. This is a frequently asked question from a lot of volunteers. They want to serve people in their community in an effective way, but giving out spare change or a few dollars may not always feel like the most positive and long-lasting way to help those in need. Giving a resource for assistance, if used, can help individuals take one more step to ending their homelessness.

Are you interested in creating a care package to give out to the homeless? Here are the 10 most recommended items, as suggested by our Ministry to the Homeless Coordinator Janie Perdue and Ozanam Manor Director Mike Bell:

  • Referral to services (Our Need a Hand cards list our information on them. The community is welcome to ask us for them at no cost.)
  • Deodorant
  • Quarters (not bills) to use at Laundromats
  • Notebook, with a calendar if possible
  • Small first aid kit, with band aids and gauze
  • Flashlight
  • Travel-size shampoo
  • Hand wipes
  • A pair of socks
  • Small hair comb




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