Is It Morally Acceptable To Give A Homeless Person Money For Drugs?

Photography By Stephen McElligott

I’ve just taken the children to the Disney store and spoiled them with some toys. I’m standing outside with all the bags while my wife and kids go inside to buy some drinks and a bite to eat.

The city is unusually busy and there’s so many people it’s hard to think straight. I drift off into a trance when with the corner of my eye I spot a young man approaching. He’s got a horseshoe meaning to hair on top of his head. Most of his teeth are missing and he’s wearing a backpack.

He’s got a very strong Irish accent from the Kerry region of Ireland. He introduces himself and says, “Hello sir, my name is Stephen and I’m needing some money to pay off my hostel or I’ll be thrown out”. He continues to ask for 60 euro. I know he’s looking for money for his next hit but it didn’t phase me. I told him I don’t have that kind of cash on me but whatever is in my wallet to the last penny he can have.

I give him this and I tell him I’ll pray for him. He must have not heard me correctly and as he walks away says, “Yeah, I’ll pray for you. I’ll say an Our Father or something”. Off he goes into the sea of people to get money from whomever he can.

Of all the people in the city street he approaches another Stephen, heh? Well, I knew he was needing his next hit of drugs or alcohol and I didn’t mind contributing to that. Most of us wouldn’t give to a person knowingly knowing they’re going to ply themselves with alcohol and drugs. But for the moment, that’s all he’s got in this miserable world so why let him suffer the withdrawal and deny him it for now?

Small acts of charity, a smile and some long or short conversation can help plant the seed inside of him to change. If he had been loved in the first place he wouldn’t have ended up in front of me. When love is missing there’s nothing but chaos in a person. The more he experiences love, the more gradually he will begin to turn his heart from the transient addiction to the legitimate addiction that is love of God and neighbor.

When we pour water on the seed it doesn’t sprout right away. It takes time before at some point it will blossom. It’s the same with another human being in need of change. We need to meet him where he is at right now in his life. Instead of pointing the finger at him to change and bogging him down with rules and regulations, simply love him as he is right now and overtime he will sprout into something decent.

Love is the key to effecting change in the other person not rules and regulations, not imposing your set of religious rules on someone. Love comes first and only then overtime can the rules and regulations make sense to the repentant heart. “You shouldn’t be smoking. You’re not getting my money because you just want it for drugs. You’re lying to me about the nature of your situation, you’re one of those gangs who go around collecting money and you’re not really homeless.”

We are always placing conditions on our charity aren’t we? How on earth can we live like that? When Jesus said give your cloak and tunic to the man who asks he didn’t put conditions on it. Whether the man be sincerely homeless or not, rich or poor doesn’t matter….GIVE IT TO HIM. It is an opportunity for you to practice love. Let them see that selfless love is real and stop with your placement of conditions on charity.

Please pray for Stephen. He had a mother who once bounced him on her knee and loved him. He was loved and now is a wandering soul that hungers for more than the drug he craves. The drug he really desires is Love. It is love that is the antidote to his addiction. Yes, I fed his short lived addiction but with the long term goal of letting him taste the greater drug of Love. The more he tastes this from society, the more he will change. The less he experiences it, the more he will wander here and there like a sheep without its shepherd.

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