Just this morning I read one of these posts and the person wrote that they were desperate. This kind of thing is much more common in light of recent disasters. This person went on to explain that they are currently homeless and starving with children. Now this post is on the internet, so this means at minimum the person writing has access to a computer and the internet.
If I assume this person is being completely genuine about the homelessness and hungry then they are probably in a public location that allows people to use computers and the internet for free. Otherwise I would like to think that the computer might be sold for some food, used to find resources or to locate employment or assistance of some kind. Many of the homeless I've worked with over the years will tell you that they would eat their own pets when the hunger is bad enough. However, online people tend to discuss homelessness and hunger as a minor issue that enough money will easily solve. This type of behavior is now something that I consider a red flag warning to consider VERY carefully before giving money.
So, regardless of where the computer is located this means the person writing the request has some form of access to society. This person has the ability to read and write and is sane enough to ask for help. It leaves me to wonder if they asked someone who is around them for food and nobody will share their meal with this poor person? Is it possible that the people around them also have no food? Or is there another reason that this person is unable to find assistance in such a horrible time of need?
I've read countless accounts of organizations who ask for people to stop sending "stuff" because they are swimming in items and have nowhere to put it all, plus it costs money to store these things until they can be distributed. I understand why people give items. Giving money means that the donor has no control over how the funding is used. The organization might use the cash to pay for something that I don't see as important or as valuable as ensuring someone has food. The money I donate might go to advertising, rent or paying phone bills and my heart was moved by someone who was desperately pleading for food. I want to give someone food and that is why I'm donating. I don't see nearly as much value in supporting the organization who will get the food to this person. Even in light of these possibilities of mismanagement, sending money to an organization is usually more likely to help than sending it to an individual person will.
The increase in these types of requests crushes my spirit and hope in people because I know it means there are thieves literally using the sympathy after such a disaster as a way to personally gain financially. People must be falling for this desperation or it would not continue to happen.
Reality suggests this cry for help is a person either looking for money or they are just trying to sound more desperate than the next guy so they get more aid. I'm not sure if this person is lying or not. The only thing I know without question is that hearing about this kind of behavior from someone who isn't being honest makes it harder and harder to believe the people who say they need help. This creates a type of mistrust in society overall, and that mistrust does hurt everyone. It is just getting harder to give and feel good about giving what I have to offer, when those who are in need seem so beyond my ability to help and I know that sometimes my help is going directly into the pocket of a thief.
I suppose the purpose in writing this blog at all is to point out that even if someone is lying about needing help, they do need something. Some of those asking are not being transparent, but I've seen from working with people who are desperate that most of them are sincere. Most organizations do not fraudulently use money, and the bills they pay are critical to keeping the organization operational. Its not as glamorous to pay for an organizations phone bill as it is to provide a hot meal for a hungry person; but without that phone how would the people in need know where to pick up the things they need?
We can do things to ensure our money goes to reputable organizations like research them on the IRS website, or check out Charity Navigator to ensure the organization is legitimate, but there is never a guarantee that all donations will be managed wisely. If we choose to donate or give something to another person in need, it is best to do it knowing that we've done our part to leave the world a little better than the way we found it. Our gift should not be about our attempting to control how it is used, but instead it should be about doing our part to contribute to society in a positive way.
If we always give with the intentions of doing something positive, then we can always feel good about that. To not give at all due to fear of the possible thieves or people who will make poor choices about management of the funding, actually hurts those who are genuinely in need because refusing to help reduces the number of people out there who are trying to support those in need by giving what they can. Trusting that we are doing the best we can and sharing when we are able to always makes the world a better place to live.