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Every flippin’ corner in my dtes Vancouver hood I’d be asked, “spare some change?” or worse, told some drawn-out bs story first before being asked.

It’s a dilemma for anyone with half a heart (if you simply don’t give a damn when the destitute on the street corners ask you for your change, you need to puzzle for a while then grow your heart two more sizes).

“They have soup kitchens and social assistance programs, and giving them change is just going to enable their dependency and probably will go straight to drugs”. That’s what I said to my softer-hearted cousin when she visited.

But over time I learned that it wasn’t that straightforward. Sometimes my change really did go to a slice of pizza that may have been the only protein or hot food they’d get that day. Sometimes the soup kitchens weren’t open (like Sunday mornings, because all the faith-based places weren’t open!). Sometimes the access to social assistance was so freaking complicated what little energy the individual could muster was sucked dry during the first (crappy pay phone) call to the 1-800#.

So then. I started giving out change if I had it, and dignify the exchange (somewhat) by leaving it entirely to the individual to use as they saw fit. Sorta like the rest of us do.

But I think I just heard a better answer.

What we can say with confidence is that we are to give something to everyone who asks – dignity, attention, time, a listening ear. Sometimes we may give money, sometimes not.

Sounds like a pretty Christ-massy sort of response to “can you spare some change” to me.

I’ll start, minimally, by not being pouty when some of Yellowknife’s folks (often inebriated to avoid hells I don’t know about) crowd in the local post office entrance or bank machine areas.

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. Mike

    how would anyone know what beggars need when asking for change ?
    unless you have been blessed to have been in need yourself

    Why is it a christmas , all the media channels brag endless about the donation they have collected ? millions of pounds of food millions of dollars , funny thing these donation never make it to the streetcorner in need, You do wwhyen you walk by , give because you care , give because you love give because it the right thing to do , and always remember this could be you
    Merry Christ mass


    Dec 12, 2011
  2. Karl

    I stopped giving beggars money in 2009, one of them, while high on drugs beat a bus driver so badly he almost died. Foolish, “kind hearted” people spent all day enabling his substance abuse and an honest, hardworking citizen paid the price for their negligence.


    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    What a horrible thing for you to have to witness, Karl. I’m really sorry for all parties involved.


    Dec 15, 2011

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