Excuse Me, Can You Spare Some Change? - Comprehension Questions


Excuse Me, Can You Spare Some Change?

Adapted from an article by Steve Campbell

In winter, the winds blow a little colder, and the days darken a little earlier and the streets hard and wet. On the corner, against a building, someone asks for some spare change. In compassion you may pause and reach into your pocket. But think again.

2 Many people are shocked that people continue to inhabit the doorways and street corners of Victoria. Why is that? The Victoria Business Association believes it's because kind people continue to enable panhandlers to make a profit by simply giving them money.

3 Much more often than not, the donations offered are spent not on food or shelter, but on drugs and alcohol. When, in compassion, you pause, think again. Are you actually helping someone continue to use drugs by helping them buy them?

4 If someone is in need of food, there are kitchens which offer free meals. If a panhandler is truly hungry, offer them something to eat. If they are hungry, you've made a much greater impact than a few extra coins - but chances are, it's your money they want.

5 Social workers, city police and downtown business people see the same thing day after day, season after season. Some panhandlers truly have problems, suffering from the effects of mental illnesses or drug abuse. Others do it simply because they know some people will give them money.

6 Police will tell you that most of these panhandlers are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They note that until these people deal with their addictions, it will be difficult for them to get off the street, because they can't get a job or pay rent.

7 Social workers, some meeting with youth, and others with adults, point out options and services to those willing to accept what Victoria has to give. What the agencies cannot provide is the pot, the heroin, or the alcohol. That's why panhandlers ask for your change.

8 Christmas is a time for giving and compassion and, as winter sets in, it is time to deal with some very real food, shelter and clothing requirements for those truly in need. Make no mistake; many members of our street population have serious problems. However, many of Victoria's neediest people don't live on the streets. They may be families who don't have enough money to feed and clothe their children. They may be women who have had to escape from a husband who beat them. These are the people who need and deserve your help.

9 For several years the people who work hard to help the poor have asked the people of Greater Victoria to give, and give generously, but where it will do the most good.

10 People downtown are feeding the hungry and families in need by donating to food banks. The Downtown Victoria Business Association provides a list of local agencies which are striving to serve the real needs of the city's poor. Some of these agencies offer hot meals; others offer a bed to sleep in. The Business Association suggests that the homeless should be encouraged to take advantage of these services, instead of begging or sleeping on the streets.

12 Many of those who work with the homeless note however that, unfortunately, there are generally more homeless people than available beds, so those who arrive last, are out of luck. Unable to find a bed, these people sleep on the sidewalk, in a dark corner or under a bridge. Many street people say they would rather sleep on the street, because some of the people in the shelters have serious mental illnesses or addictions and can become aggressive, even dangerous.

13 There are many reasons why people beg or sleep on the streets, but handing out spare change doesn't necessarily make life easier for panhandlers. The government needs to make sure there are enough beds to meet needs, and proper services for those who are mentally ill. And of course, those who are on the street who are not mentally ill need to make an effort to change their lives for the better. It's not easy, but the alternative is even worse.