Blissfully Informed Hippie Chick

Encouraging people to think critically about everything.

Why I have a problem with “Blessing Bags” for the homeless

on January 6, 2016

Great post. Be sure and read the comments referred to in the original blog =)

“Those posts pretty much sum up why the idea of “Blessing Bags” bothers me so much. I know that the intention behind them is good, but it’s dehumanizing because it implies that just because someone is homeless they can’t be trusted to be a decent enough person to deserve straight up cash, which is far more helpful than Blessing Bags or sets of clothing or baskets of food. It also implies that giving and kindness are conditional – people can’t just simply give for the sake of giving. They want to make sure what they give falls under some arbitrary “acceptable use” policy.

I can understand not wanting hard-earned cash to go to drugs or alcohol or whatever else – but honestly, how other people choose to deploy the help you give them is none of your business. You either give for the sake of giving, or you don’t, it’s simple as that. Just because you are better off or it’s your money you are giving to them, doesn’t mean you are better than them or that you get to decide how they live their lives. They are still human beings just like you.

If you don’t want your money going to drugs and booze, then just simply don’t give. No one’s going to hold that against you. But let’s not make it worse and dehumanize and humiliate people that are already down on their luck by directly passing out Blessing bags, clothing, food, or basically anything else that is representative of “conditional giving” – which is anything but cash or gift certificates. The money you spend on those things is usually far more useful to them than what you buy with it anyway. They can buy not only what they need, but what they want, if they are so inclined. Let them have that little bit of joy in their lives.”

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8 responses to “Why I have a problem with “Blessing Bags” for the homeless

  1. Agent X says:

    Wow! What a breath of fresh air to read this post. And I was sooooo suspicious of it by the title too.

    Okay, let me come clean up front here. You made no mention of Jesus or faith in your post, so I am inclined to think that is not important to you. However, it is to me. I blog from that perspective all the time about homelessness etc…

    That said, here is something I bet you don’t know. There is a best selling book out there called When Helping Hurts that has taken the “Christian market” by storm. (There are others like it, but this one seems to lead the pack.) Anyway, it tells people that giving cash and in fact nearly any freewill gifts and charities actually hurts people in need. It sites a lot of Bible scriptures etc to support the ideas.

    However, as a minister from among those same ranks, I constantly rebut that book with passages right out of the Bible that thwart the book’s claims. In Luke 6:30, Jesus says, “…give to all who ask….” In Mark 10:21, Jesus tells one rich guy to sell all he owns, give it to the poor…” And in the Old Testament, the Proverbs in 31:6-7 instruct us to actually give booze to the poor so they can forget their plight, and to give hard liquor to the dying to ease their pain!

    I am not trying to convert you here (not against the idea, but that is not my point). Rather, as surely you are aware, the church has a 2000 year history of caring for the poor. Sometimes badly, but still the history is pretty firmly in place. But here in recent years there is a big push to change how we do that. And it comes out in “blessing bags” among other things quite often.

    I really appreciate your attitude toward giving here in this post. And whether you meant it to or not, it coincides with the commands of Jesus and bucks the trends that are popular in “Christianity” as of late. That is a breath of fresh air for me.

    Thank you for posting. I am so glad to find others voicing this concern – even if from other vantage points!

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your well thought out comment! I would like to point out, however, that I simply reblogged this post from a fellow blogger =) I don’t wish to take credit that belongs to someone else! But I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that this fellow blogger has expressed. I also agree with you that Christianity… meaning, discipleship of Jesus Christ… calls for aiding the needy in all ways. My grandfather is a retired pastor, and I was lucky enough to be witness to his and my grandmother’s compassion of and aid to people in need. I have been sorely disappointed in the lack of similarly-minded religious leaders. I do not call myself “religious” by any stretch of the definition, but I do consider myself to be spiritual; and I do so love the teachings of Jesus, among other religious figures.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope that you will also follow the link to the original post and leave a comment for that well-deserving blogger =)

      Like

  2. I see the point made here and understand it. Putting myself in those shoes and even not, I like being given cash to spend the way I like. However, I can also see another point of view.

    But then buying an extra breakfast sandwich and coffee, on your daily morning stop for the homeless guy you see there each morning isn’t such a bad thing either.

    Like

    • I would be happier if everyone just talked to homeless people, got to know them, learned what their specific needs actually were, and then helped accordingly. If a homeless guy needs breakfast, great! Buy him breakfast. But if he honestly just wants a can of beer, buy him a beer. If he’s trying to save up cash for an apartment, set up a Go Fund Me type account and share it on Facebook.

      There are enough resources on this planet to feed, clothe, and house all humans… we just have to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, it’s sad. Most ppl walk by a homeless person and think of them as non-human and just want to get away from them as fast as possible.

        As for there being enough resources..I was just thinking about this last night while reading something. So many people go without…whether it be food, a place to live or whatever, when those that don’t, generally speaking, have too much and throw so much away. The dumpsters in back of restaurants and grocery stores are heartbreaking and infuriating.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Agent X says:

    If we are purposeful about sharing with others, we will figure it out. If we treat our neighbors like family – perhaps extended family – then we will be sacrificial toward them. I would point out that you cannot be casual about your care for the homeless and expect to really achieve much.

    What’s funny to me is how that giving money, despite the amazing potential it holds for helping ANY needs/wants, is also most often the EASIEST and most CONVENIENT way to “help.” At that level, it amounts to what my dad calls CONSCIENCE SALVE. And that only means that my heart is pricked for this person, but my money is the easiest way to make the problem go away.

    If my mother or my sister or my cousin were down on their luck (or even addicted to drugs) and thereby out on the streets, I would try numerous things to help them get back home. It is possible that after many many efforts and lots of expended energy and time that I might “give up” on them – I have seen it happen many times. But since they are family, I would certainly “try” very hard before I were to “give up.”

    As a Christian man, I see Jesus in the homeless (Matt. 25:40) and he is my brother and my LORD. So, I definitely try to help.

    I see limitations to the blessing bags. I am not against them, but I don’t think they are “all that” either. I was moved to speak out on the issue because I sense rather strongly that blessing bags frequently are viewed as an effective way to side step giving cash, and that is an issue for people who are against giving cash. I don’t think we should be so one-sided about cash (or blessing bags).

    If we are purposeful and sacrificial toward our homeless/needy neighbors, we will find which way helps in any given situation.

    And if we all did this… perhaps we could unofficially “adopt” a homeless person (like adopt-a-highway or something) and deal mainly with that one (or two) people that we get to know well. And after all, I might be white middle class and all that, but by myself, I cannot end homelessness. Nevertheless, we are the richest nation on earth. If we all played our bit parts in this, we could end homelessness – at least in theory.

    But we wont do very much good at all if all of us are rather casual and/or one sided about giving money or blessing bags etc. as if one size fits all situations…. so to speak. I really must be more purposeful than just alleviating my own conscience for a few moments.

    ….

    Glad I found this blog and this discussion!

    Thanks for posting….

    Agent X
    Fat Beggars School of Prophets
    Lubbock, Texas (USA)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your opinion and insights here. I agree that simply giving money is still mostly just a way to assuage a guilty conscience; however, it’s at least universally helpful, whereas “blessing bags” may just create more waste when they are tossed aside. What all people need is love and compassion to fully thrive as individuals, and that cannot be attained through a bag of toiletries or a wad of cash.

      Like

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