We visited Paris a few months ago. As soon as we left the train and the station, we met a beggar, and a few streets on the next one… and then the next one. How to deal with this as a tourist? Emotionally, we wanted to give money, rationally we hesitated: would the Parisians be pleased if millions of tourists start funding beggars, potentially increasing their numbers ? What will an individual beggar do with the donation? Buy food, finance a roof for the night, or god forbid buy drugs? Or is the beggar part of a commercial enterprise? Shockingly, there were couples getting ready for a night on the street with small babies. Should that be supported that?
Just like tipping and charity, giving money to homeless people has a bad side to it. It crowds out community and state involvement. A minimum existence should not be left to the whims of tourists. Shouldn’t it be something that we collectively decide to guarantee for everyone? In the perfect society, there ought to be no need to beg, there shouldn’t be a need to rely on the irregular kindness of passing people.
A dilemma. In the end we think we found a way out of this. We started counting the number of beggars that we met. We tripled that number and after we returned home we searched and found a charity in Paris that supports homeless people. We donated the calculated sum to that organization. Not the best solution, but workable.
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