During the holidays, we often reflect on all that we have and become a little more mindful of those who have less. So when we see that young man begging at the intersection, should we give him our change? Or does our generosity just perpetuate problems for those who are homeless?

In this special Tiny Spark holiday podcast, we speak to three people who have devoted their careers to tackling homelessness and delve into the debate about whether you should give money to people begging on the street. Jeremy Swain, CEO of Thames Reach, a homeless charity in London, warns that “your kindness can kill.” He says our holiday-fueled generosity actually poses problems for his staff. “There’s no doubt that we’ve lost people through overdoses for whom most of their income has come via the public.”

But Mark Horvath sees it differently. “When I was on the streets homeless, and I was addicted to drugs, the people that gave me money saved my life,” he tell us. And Anthony Ruffin, who does outreach work on Skid Row in Los Angeles can see both sides of argument. “It’s hard to answer that question,” he says. But, as we strive to be more informed givers, he stresses the need for compassion. “We’re all just a couple of paychecks from being in the same boat.”

Additional Links:

Jeremy Swain in The New Statesman: Giving money to the homeless isn’t generous – it can condemn them to death

Mark Horvath’s opinion: Giving Money to Homeless People Is Okay

L.A. Times article: A true L.A. hero: For people dying on L.A. streets, he offers help, and he won’t take no for an answer

Horvath on Twitter

Swain on Twitter