Friday, June 15, 2007

Homelessness and $5 Gift Cards at McDonald's

Initially, I was going to write about the socioeconomic aspect of homelessness but it ended up being too complex and there were too many problems, without enough solutions, for me to write about.

Lately, I've been encountering a lot of homeless people asking for money. The issue with me is not that I'm a cheapskate or aloof on the matter of homelessness, but rather that I can't tell if he (I'm going to use he, his, him instead of he/she, his/her, him/her throughout this blog) is deserving of help or if he is going to buy alcohol with the money (my main concern). Well, I think that no matter what the person's walk of life, he deserves to eat. So, I was wondering how I could give homeless people money and guarantee that it wouldn't be spend on alcohol. At first I wanted to take the person to lunch myself and get in a conversation about how he ended up on the streets. But, that might make him feel ridiculed and he probably would rather not eat than have to tell someone about his life. After some tossing and turning at night I finally came up with a solution that I think makes sense: $5 gift cards from McDonalds.

Yesterday I went to McDonald's to pick up gift cards that I could hand out to homeless people so that I could make sure that my money was going towards feeding them instead of to alcohol. I can't stand the sick feeling of lying and saying "I don't have any change" when I really could have helped that person out. I want to kick my own ass every time I insincerely say "Sorry ,man", when I really want to say "Sorry, I don't trust that you'll spend it on food and I'm too stupid/lazy to think of a way to help you".

I can see how gift cards might not be something that everyone wants to adopt because $5 is a lot to plop down for a single donation. I wanted to get $3 gift cards, but the minimum amount is $5 on a card. Additionally, they have to scan each (blank) card and write in the value, which took about 15 minutes to complete. Still, I recommend that if you feel that this society has given you enough for you to give back, please go pick up a few gift cards.

We need to take advantage of the fact that there is a McDonald's in every neighborhood. What I'm going to do is to write an e-mail and send in a letter (better option). I'll post with the contents of that letter. Basically, I want McDonalds to start carrying $1, $2, $3, and $5 pre-valued cards so that anyone can buy them and use them as money for homeless people without using cash. It would be ideal if there was a website where people could order these gift cards and have them mailed to their houses. It's a win-win-win for donaters, homeless people, and McDonald's. The donations would also be tax deductible, so that everyone can be sure that the government helps out on this too.

If you believe in this idea as much as I do, please follow suit and e-mail and mail a (signed) letter to McDonald's. All you'll need to do is copy and paste what I'll post in my next blog. Details on what to write and where to send it will follow.

Change three: help the homeless.

12 comments:

Eric said...

can't wait to hear Heintz on this one!!!

Seriously...the days of me feeling guilty for saying "sorry" are over.

$1, $2, $5 gift cards are ALL a waste of time and money and energy if you seriously think this will help.

Be a good parent and a good person...that will do much much more than any monetary supplement for those that suck from the system.

Matt Lee said...

Yeah, I do think this would help. I agree with being a good parent, of course, but what will that do to help the problem that's already out there? That's like saying that we're going to clean the streets by not littering anymore.

Anonymous said...

Are you working for Mc Donalds now?

I don't know man, I feel sorry for these homeless people as much as the next high achieving yuppie, but these guys will use these gift cards as cash and trade them in for some sort of fix.

It is definitely better than giving them cash though. YOu make a good point.

I say send them back to war!

MouseNBrowse said...

Good news!

http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/shop/certificates.html

You can buy $1 gift certificates online, follow the link at the bottom of the page...
I think it's a good thing to do too, you may also want to look into bus tickets for homeless people needing a ride.

TheDopeMage said...

Matley, you`re an ass. Who are you to decide what the homeless (or anyone) does with the few dollars you decide to gift them? So they buy alcohol? Um...big deal! They`re homeless and their life is s****. What? Do you expect them to take the 1 or two dollars you give them and buy a tofu sandwich at a cafe and chat it up with some spoiled college brats? Honestly, a $5 McDonald`s card isn`t going to make a difference in their lives. So please, get off that yuppie high-horse of yours and stop trying to impress us by imposing your subjective "morals" on those MUCH less fortunate. We only live once and I would rather give a homeless person a HAPPY alcoholic grin then shrug them off with lies because "OMG They iz gonna buy teh booze!". Seriously, McDonald`s is probably just as "healthy" as liquor anyways.

Matt Lee said...

Thedopemage, I posted your comment because I want to be fair with the criticism that I receive. That being said, I completely disagree with your reasoning. Do you really think that giving money to homeless people with the intention of them spending it on drugs or booze is going to help them? They might think so, but do you?

One of the main reasons for the formation and functionality of governments is that people don't know what's best for themselves. As resistant as we might be to that idea, a lot of what we "believe" and how we live together as a society is handed down to us. My point is: if everyone just did what they thought was best for themselves, everyone would be a lot more screwed than they already are. For instance, social security was created because the gov't realized that the typical person doesn't think about saving and retirement. There were droves of homeless senior citizens and the gov't decided to do something about it. Since then, there have been major efforts to educate the working class on saving for retirement - which is good because social security is going to dry up by about 2041.

I got off topic a bit, but my point is that giving people what they want usually isn't what's going to help them the most. Yeah, I'm probably being a bit yuppy by saying that I don't want to give homeless people money for booze, but that doesn't mean I haven't done it. One night I bought a homeless guy some beer because he helped me find a nearby ATM. Another time I peeled off a couple of beers from my six-pack as I was walking to a party.

My original blog was a public statement. The intent was for people to take on the same action or at least think about the problem. I could go case-by-case and once in awhile justify just helping a homeless guy get through the day, but on a global scale, buying only food will be a greater service to them than helping them maintain their buzz.

Anonymous said...

Another alternative that I have seen and will start to do is make "blessing bags" and leave a few in my car to give out. You could get a gallon size zip lock bag and put some nonparishable food items, travel size toiletries, etc.. In it. Maybe also a little note of encouragement.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Matley for what you do.
A lot of those homeless are war veterans. And, many of them would not stay in the shelter. My husband and I were in Boston and we saw two homeless guys, one was just waking up from sleep and the other one was still asleep (this was around lunch time). We decided to get them lunch from Wendy's and they were most appreciative.

Jennifer Forsythe said...

Wow I just had that idea last week of Mc Donald's gift cards. That's how I found your post because I was looking to see if McDonalds had gift cards. Your a great human being and I wish everyone could care as much 😊

Anonymous said...

Ive given food and have been told I don't want it, I've offered to exchange work for $ and was told I don't want to work, I just want $. I've been approached by the line "I just need $ for gas..." then gave them $5/10 only to see that same person a week later. Some, I have just given $ to because I had a sense that they needed it. Now, what they do with the $ is their issue. But mainly, I feel that if people DID NOT give $ to them, they would eventually cease to be on the streets asking. Some are in a bad situation, but many others choose not to adhere to a society of "if you work, you get paid" - many just do not want to work. Many want to live off the grid and not have to answer to corporate society or be part of the perceived "rat race". Fine. That's their choice. My choice is that no matter how low I get (and I've been mighty low...trust me) I will find some sort of work while I am physically able to. I propose no hard $ to be given EVER - my choice - but a $5 MD gift card can be made into 3 meals easy... may be the boost someone needs to get through a couple days - or buy a kid a cheeseburger. May I suggest... throw in a couple cigarettes ... this will say more than a tube of toothpaste...

Unknown said...

I think your Idea is nice. Some people aren't mentally strong, or have no hope in being stable to work. I think people should try to help them, we can all make a difference in society if we grow A heart. I like your idea, keep being a leader, you encouraged me to help.

Anonymous said...

In a Feb 2017 interview, Pope Francis was asked if not giving a beggar money due to concerns that it will be misspent on drugs/alcohol is right or wrong. You can search and read the interview, but in a nutshell he said, "if a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that's okay. Instead, ask yourself what do you do on the sly? What 'happiness' do you seek in secret? Giving something to someone in need is always right." Oh boy, I'm in trouble. However, I still like the idea of de-risking the drugs and alcohol option with gift cards. I found this thread because I was searching for ideas. I'm simply going to load up on $5-10 gift cards from decent fast food places and keep them in my car and maybe carry one or two with me. I'll just keep in mind that one can never outdo God in generosity.