Saturday, October 25, 2008

Charity during and after the crisis

There’s been a few questions around the various survival and prep forums, as well as a few questions dropped in the comments section here that could also be related, about how one would handle refugees, beggars and overall charity after TSHTF.

It’s been years since this because a problem here so I’ll just tell how things happened in my country and how I’ve been handling these kind of situations.

With a large portion of the middle class turning poor and the already poor people becoming derelicts, the amount of people roaming around begging increased tremendously.

It’s not just people outside supermarkets begging for some food, they go home to home, stop you on the street.

Maybe you’ve already noticed an increasing number of people begging or panhandling outside supermarkets, grocery stores and gas stations.
Tip: Just wait until it gets worse and managers notice clients don’t feel comfortable there anymore. They’ll have security kicking them out before they get close to the establishment.

On the street, even if you are a charitable person, you really do NOT want to get used to stopping and listening to any beggar you come across. Not only will you be loosing a couple hours of your day when the amount of beggars increases, most of them with very tragic stories, but you’ll also turn yourself into a favorite target of any criminal that is just looking to distract you while an accomplice hits you over the head or stanches you bag/purse/pack/briefcase.

But what about people going door to door?
As things gets worse this turns into something you have to deal with, you just can’t avoid people standing at your door and start ringing the bell.

Here’s where fact and fiction part ways.

In an ideal world, we would all hand out some kind of help to these poor souls, at least a bit to each as long as we can afford it.

Fact: Even Bill Gates can’t afford the endless line he’d face at his door front once the word gets around that a particular charitable person is willing to listen to their troubles and offer some help.

Old people, kids, cripples, sick, people with true heart braking stories, they show up almost on daily basis at the door. Add to these sincere people, those that are just bums or addicts looking to make some coin, or the dedicated con men that send kids around asking for money.

You do not have time to help everyone. There’s so many of them, just listening to half of them will take most of your weekend.

The way I handle it?

Most of the time I don’t even answer the door if I don’t recognize who’s out there.
I want to spend time with my family when I’m home, not answer the door all day.
In some occasions, when there are kids, I offer them some food.
If they refuse the food I know that they are not that hungry and more than likely the money isn’t even for them, but for some addict parent or relative that exploits them.

I should mention here as well, that as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. So IF I answer the door, I’m doing so armed, and talking through the grating metal fence, since many times kids are used as bait for grownups to brake in.

I usually end up with boxes of chocolates and sweets neither of us actually likes, and that’s what I usually end up giving away to the kids. Either that or some pudding cake, or some other food they can eat right there, before getting home where the parent will more than likely take it away form them for himself or to sell.

If I helped a kid one day and the following they other show up, I either tell them that I can’t help or I don’t even answer the door. That way I avoid a reputation and the constant bagging that would come along with it.

This is a touchy issue and religion and the “Christian thing to do” comes into play, but unless you realize how many desperately poor people are out there, you really don’t know how impossible it is, to help everyone.

Once you realize the magnitude of the social poverty, you understand like I do that you can’t help everyone.

It’s much better to refuse this kind of begging that could get out of control, and find other ways to help if that what you want to do.

Once or twice a year, I take the clothes we don’t use anymore to the small local Catholic church.
There they make sure the most needy families get what they need, and the charity is distributed much better among those that need it the most.

So, watch out who you answer your door to, don’t open it unless you have another barrier (tall fence) or else deal through a window, give out charity only occasionally, NEVER give them money, no matter what story they come up with ( need meds for my dieing son among others I’ve heard) and if possible give away food that can be eaten right away.



Anonymous said...

It really is a sad situation. I would imagine it would tear your heart out to see starving children. If you help one, word might get out and there might be 10the next day knocking at your door. I will try to confine my giving through our church.

Excellent security tips.

May God bless your new child.

Anonymous said...

I hope THIS will not arrive here and not happen to me.
In Germany we never had such poverty for the last 50years.
But it could come to us. We have a lot of debt and the only way to pay is printing money. This makes inflation rise and then doom arrives.

How do you dress to avoid people looking at you?
Did you ever do martial arts? Would you recommend it?

I have some further question about the pension funds: will the government sell the stocks to raise money to pay off the government debt? What do you expect?
Selling the stocks seems to be the only possibility of raising money.

Anonymous said...

Are people still dancing tango? :))

The tango of the bankrupt...

Anonymous said...

I've noticed a lot more begging and homeless people in the last ten years. Before that, I had never seen anyone who was obviously homeless. Things are changing and the majority of Americans don't understand why. Most people don't even seem to want to think about it.

I don't claim to understand it completely but I have an idea of what some of the causes are. Things like Population increasing at a faster rate (exponential curve), Decline in net energy, Increasing gap between rich and poor.

We've become a nation of consumers who only care about acquiring wealth. Business, making money, and growth are all seen as unquestionably good things. There's little thought about things like sustainability or improving the quality of life. When people are told that the economy is growing, they just accept that it is, and that it is good. Few stop to think about what it really means.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to post pictures of your surroundings? Your fencing? The poverty?

Anonymous said...

Do not post photos of your surroundings. But a movie of the next shootout would be great! :)

Anonymous said...

I would first like to say thank you for all the great posts to FerFal and for his great essay. I have lived through similar break down of the economy in Bulgaria in the 90's and I see many similarities with the way you describe it but some differences as well. The main differnce I see is that even though many people were poor violent crime never reached high levels as you describe it in Argentina. There is organized crime, but if you don't get involved with them there is nothing to worry about. I always remember walking around the city during day or night and never felt any fear. I think that if things get really bad with the world economy there will be similar problems accross all countries, but the extend of the violence will be different in the different societes. I cannot predict it now but I expect in some countries violence will not increase even if people have nothing to eat. I think high crime will happen in countries which are racially or religiously divided.

DanT said...

Thank you for your generousity in taking questions and sharing knowledge.

How do condominiums and apartments fare in the current economic environment? Do you have suggestions for condominium dwellers?

Ryan said...

My Wife packs a few lunches when she needs to go to areas where beggars are. An apple and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a paper bag costs about 75 cents. She gets to give them something and if they are genuinely hungry they've got lunch.

I am far more cold hearted then her so turning folks down isn't a big problem for me. I would admittedly have a lot harder time if kids were begging. Once in a blue moon I grab a handful from my ashtray full of change and hand a bum a couple bucks worth.

Bukko Boomeranger said...

Re: beggars -- they're getting more widespread even in places you don't expect.

My wife and I usually spend a month in Europe each year (not bad for a hospital nurse like me who literally wipes arses for a living, but we saw the collapse coming to the U.S. and got out when the money was still worth something, so we can afford it.) I have never seen so many beggars, grifters and homeless people in Paris as I did this trip.

Disheveled, stinky, obviously mentally ill people talking to themselves on the Metro, people coming up to us on the streets asking for handouts, a sandwich-handout kitchen setting up to a crowd of more than 100 people one night on the Place de la Republique (one of Paris's big public centres)... There's always been a bit of beggary in Paris, but it's amped up now. And the hard times have not even started to hit.

There's also street poverty in Australia, especially the soup kitchen thing near the main train station in Melbourne. One difference in how it's handled in Oz vs. Argentina, though. Down here, there's more of an effort by the government to make things decent for the poor people. It's the good side of socialism -- using the power of government to help the masses in society.

I know you're a free-market, anti-socialist guy, FERfal. But you can see that depending on churches and private charity doesn't help when there's so many poor people. We pay high taxes, so the government grabs a lot of our money, but it's a fair trade-off in my opinion so that I don't have to live in a shitheap society.

Of course, it helps to have a government run by people who are basically honest and are looking out for the broader interest of society instead of just how to enrich themselves, and to not have your government's policies controlled by the IMF. But it's a damned shame that a country like Argentina, with as much agriculture, minerals, water and intelligent people (as opposed to the uneducated billions in the Third World, I mean) as it has, is being run so shittily.

Anonymous said...

I have long made it a practice to NEVER give money as charity to beggars. Years ago, as part of a Christian missions training group, we were dumped on the streets of a major US city to help us gain "compassion" for the poor. We slept in shelters (both public and church run), ate in soup kitchens, sold our blood plasma for a few bucks, peeled potatoes at a restaurant in exchange for some food, even spent the night in a house that had been squatted by a bunch of anarchists.

The experience was eye-opening for me - while life on the streets is no picnic, we spent a week talking to and learning from those on the street and the vast majority were not interested in work and working some angle or another. Scam artists, thieves and liars abounded. The charitable people of the world give so much that you could literally eat 8 times a day within a two mile area. And every good-sized city in America has similar resources. Food, clothes (our first night on the streets was spent in the basement of a Christian mission sleeping on a MOUNTAIN of donated clothing!), many, many services. And every distribution point had a list of all the other distribution points. You'd have to be incredibly stupid to not be able to survive without panhandling or begging.

Although I had worked "serving the poor" in overnight shelters and soup kitchens (I even met my wife on a food distribution to street people), it wasn't until I was on the other side of the counter that I learned the scams and the ways to work the system.

My advice?

1. never give money. If someone asks for money, the answer is always no.

2. If they ask for food, they've got the foot in the door, but not until after I've heard their story (quickly!). Then I either offer them something to eat (which is rarely accepted) or refer them to local charities.

3. True hunger in America is rare, particularly in a city. Food is cheap and plentiful. I could easily feed my family of seven on 5 dollars a day if it came to that. By getting assistance through charities (private charities, not public welfare programs) I could probably lower that by half or more.

4. I will never give charity to people going door to door again. We did so when living in Berekely, CA., to a mother with two small children and then we were a constant target, even getting the doorbell rung at 2 am!

5. Support your local charities! If you feel that you must give, give to local charities and then refer people who ask for help to them. I prefer to give to organizations that work solely with families or that have a combined work/charity program. Most truly needy people don't beg on the street. If you want to help them, you'll need to go through a charitable intermediary.

Despite my experiences, I have not turned cold-hearted. There are truly needy people who need help, but it's hard to sort through the scams, so I am suspicious. I will do everything I can to keep my money from going to someone's next fix.

Finally, all this experience only applies to "normal" times. If we slide into a depression, all bets are off. An idea, however: how about a big charity-run garden? Fill a shopping bag with produce in exchange for some labor? You weed out the lazy and scammers and still help those who genuinely need help.