Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Money for beggars

Give money without fear that it will be spent on drugs or alcohol
  [vote for,

Like most people, I’ve been approached, countless times, by beggars asking for “spare change”. And like most people, I rarely give them anything. The reason for this is not that I’m an evil person or that I can’t afford it or even that I think these people don’t deserve a break. It’s because I have a hunch that it is likely that this money will be spent on cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs. It certainly doesn’t help that such beggar are often smoking and/or looking less than sober at the time. This idea will hopefully make it more difficult to misuse the money I give, but without limiting its usage, such as with food stamps.

The crux of this idea is giving the beggar a specially marked check (with the beggars name on it), instead of cash. Legal establishments will know that if they’re caught accepting this kind of check for cigarettes, alcohol or cash, they are liable to lose their liquor license or even business license. And drug dealers won’t be able to spend it in any legal establishment, because some one else’s name is on it (I don’t imagine many dealers accept checks anyways).

Here’s how it might work:

Sell beggars a small tamper-proof coin deposit box (like those in parking meters). During the day, the donors will put their coins into the box of the soliciting beggar. When the box fills up, the beggar, who can’t open the box himself, will go to a local bank (or some other trusted depositary), which can open the box and gives him a bank check for the value of it’s content (minus a small fee).

The city would have an interest in subsidizing the cost of the deposit box and bank fees since this will reduce both drunkenness and drug usage on the streets and well as the total number of beggars. The beggars have an interest in lugging around the deposit box, since it will probably bring them more donations, because potential donors, like myself, will be less cynical and therefore less hesitant to donate. All in all it is a win-win situation, where banks and deposit box makers will get more business at the expense of drug dealers. And beggars will have a little more incentive to quit their money-draining habits.

In conclusion, this approach is better than food stamps because:

1. Checks have the owners name on them and are traceable.

2. This method won’t inconvenience donors, they still give coins.

3. There are more stores that accept checks than stores that accept food stamps.

4. Dealers have been known to accept food stamps, but are unlikely to accept checks.

imho, Jul 09 2003

Purchasable Food Stamps http://www.halfbake...to_20the_20Homeless
Less complicated but far less secure [imho, Oct 04 2004]

Google search: "panhandler vouchers" http://www.google.c...panhandler+vouchers
Commonly done, without the unnecessary box. [waugsqueke, Oct 04 2004]


       Hey if they want to spend their money on illegal drugs and alcahol then this idea wont stop them, its more than likely that they have been givin a break neumrous times but because they enjoy getting loaded they blew it. If thats how they want to live then let them, giving them money is your choice.
Gulherme, Jul 09 2003

       <benfrost/>I looked at him standing there in a pool of someone else's urine, with his stuffed elephant and his hand reached out towards me . .

he asked me for change.
but all I could give him was money</benfrost>
thumbwax, Jul 09 2003

       Your insistence on these things being actual checks, rather than food stamps or some expanded food-stamp-like voucher, dooms the idea to make no sense. Without a general totalitarian overhaul of all commerce, it's just not possible to have this kind of control over how people spend checks. If you give me a $20 check, it's worth $20 and if I buy a $1 candy bar at the deli then I'll have $19 cash change. Also, putting a name on a check doesn't magically prevent it from being cashed by someone else. Finally, drug dealers probably wouldn't accept a check from *me* because it might *bounce*, butI imagine they'd be quite happy to accept a check that's backed up by the government.   

       Sorry, it makes no sense.
hob, Jul 09 2003

       Begging is, for some people, a profession; for others, it is a desperate last resort. If you want to give either or both groups money, more power to your elbow.   

       However, coercing any system onto the vulnerable and desperate is an evil-hearted measure. Fishbone.
DrCurry, Jul 09 2003

       Beggars will be choosers.
silverstormer, Jul 09 2003

       There are a number of good points here. The bank shouldn’t give one check, but rather smaller denomination. If you would prefer to call this “expanded food-stamps”, so be it. But again, you have the person's name on it, so it provides a sense of accountability. Sure you can pawn your belongings or even buy an ounce of gold and resell it for cash. But this require the kind of ingenuity and entrepreneurship that would also bring one to the realization that simply getting a minimum-wage job is less hassle/effort per unit dollar. Finally, if raising the tax on a pack of smokes by a few bucks is making a noticeable dent, surely what I’m suggesting will too. At the very least they won’t be getting a bottle of booze “on a whim”.
imho, Jul 09 2003

       [imho], I'm not even sure where to start...   

       1. If you're talking about a voucher that can only be redeemed for certain products and can't be converted to cash, then that is not a check, it's a voucher. This isn't just a word-quibble; your idea partly depends on the fact that, as you say, "There are more stores that accept checks than stores that accept food stamps." What you don't realize is the *reason* for that: checks are *money*, and stores do not have to take part in a heavily regulated government program in order to cash them.   

       2. Putting someone's name on a piece of paper does not magically prevent it from being sold to someone else and used, unless everyone has reliable identity documents, which people on the skids generally do not.   

       3. If you think having to use pawnshops or dishonest schemes to get a few bucks teaches valuable entrepreneurial skills that will help people turn their lives around, and that simply deciding to get a minimum-wage job will do the trick, I'm guessing that you have very little experience with homelessness, unemployment, addiction, or the job market. Not your fault, maybe you just haven't been round the block yet - what really irritates me is that there are politicians who do know better yet still use this kind of reasoning.
hob, Jul 09 2003

       … and yet I feel that it is the job of these goody-goody politicians and naïve citizens, like myself, to “encourage” capable people out of the beg-and-booze rut and become “productive members of society”. During this winter, I briefly volunteered in a local soup kitchen and shelter for the homeless. Believe me, I’ve heard the “I’m 45 years old and no one will hire me in this economy” story more than a few times. Perhaps “I haven't been round the block”, perhaps this idea, like the social experiments from the 60’s and 70’s are all one big waste of taxpayer’s money. What irritates me is that so many people feel so at ease with giving up on this problem, making jokes of it and wishing only not to see it in their neighborhood, so it won’t conflict with their denial.
imho, Jul 09 2003

       Panhandler voucher systems, much better, simpler and easier for all to use than yours, are common and have been so for decades.
waugsqueke, Jul 09 2003

       Or they could build fake boxes...
cyphear, Jul 09 2003

       [imho], I don't blame you for trying and I'm glad you helped out at a soup kitchen; I hope you try it more than once, they can use the help. The only reason I said that you might lack life experience (though I'm guessing, from your very vague remark about "the social experiments of the 60's and 70's," that you're fairly young) is that you said some incredibly unrealistic things.   

       Specifically, first, you didn't seem to understand the difference between checks and vouchers (and still don't - I notice you haven't responded to those points). Second, when you said that having to pawn or scam for money will "require the kind of ingenuity and entrepreneurship, etc.", you left the real world entirely behind. Look: people who are down and out *already* spend a great deal of time playing all kinds of dodges and learning all the angles of the system to scrape together money. This goes double for junkies or alcoholics. It's true that some will get tired of it and this may contribute to making a change; for many others, it just becomes a way of life. But that has nothing to do with your idea; it's the way things already are!   

       Finally, if you think "I'm 45 years old and no one will hire me in this economy" is just a "story" then you are definitely leading a sheltered life. At least in the coastal cities of the U.S., these are brutal economic times; I know highly skilled people who are barely getting by. Have you ever tried to pay rent with a minimum-wage job? Do you believe that drug and alcohol rehab programs are readily available for people with no fixed address who suddenly "realize" that they should clean up? Then yes, you have a few things to learn. I'm not saying that nothing needs to change, but good intentions aren't much help if you're so confused about basic premises.
hob, Jul 10 2003

       I believe supporting pan-handlers just prolongs the pan-handlers current state of misery. I have been in situations where I did not have enough to eat and lost a lot of weight. I had to get a job!, how horrible. I know most large cities do provide adequate opportunities to get a meal, shower, and provide chances to get out of such a situation.
Zimmy, Jul 10 2003

       hob: No need to get hot under the collar. I didn’t counter your first two points, for the simple reason that I agree with them.   

       Just for the record, I’m a student. And as for //Have you ever tried to pay rent with a minimum-wage job? // I am and I do. But of course for students that’s normal.
imho, Jul 10 2003

       [imho] two words: computer programming.
Zimmy, Jul 10 2003

       You mean to tell me that “plastics” isn’t good any more? ;-}
imho, Jul 10 2003

       [imho], no offense, but I did find your response irritating -- the one beginning with "...and yet I feel" -- because you basically changed the subject from the merits/drawbacks of your idea to your good intentions, and in a rather sarcastic way which seemed to imply that your critics are just being cynical.
hob, Jul 10 2003

       Why then don’t you go to food places and buy gift cards in small denominations to give out. Yes they could sell them for real cash, but who would trust them enough to buy it.   

       This would work instead of building metal boxes (meters) costing lots of taxpayers money, or money the homeless don’t have. Give it to the people in a way they can use. Not in the cost of a box.
SunTzu, Jul 10 2003

       The problem is that most people donate to panhandlers spontaneously. That is they don’t plan out what they will give, days ahead of time (out of sight, out of mind). So, it’s unlikely that many people will be carrying these cards around with them, just in case. It seems to me much easier to change the work habits of beggars than to change those of everybody else. Purchasable food stamps have the same problem.
imho, Jul 10 2003

       a better way of doing this would be to get food stamps at a soup kitchen and hand them to beggars   

       The stamps can only be exchanged for food and cannot be used to buy heroine off drug dealers, as a drug dealer could easily resell other kinds of tickets
0_owaffleo_0, Jul 10 2003

       waffleooo, see links - there's already an idea for that, more or less.
hob, Jul 10 2003


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