DEAR HARRIETTE: I have noticed more and more homeless people on the streets. And I feel like they are getting more aggressive in asking for -- demanding, really -- money. I went in to get something from a convenience store, and a woman waiting outside asked me for money. When I did not give her anything but continued along my way, she began to yell at me and follow me a few steps down the street. I am not numb to the realities of homelessness in our country, but I also do not feel like it is my duty to give money to every person who demands it. How can I handle this without being rude or disrespectful? -- Dealing With the Homeless
DEAR DEALING WITH THE HOMELESS: Sadly, the homelessness crisis in our country is growing dramatically. Depending on where you live, chances are, you will see many homeless people in your neighborhood who are trying desperately to get by. That does not mean that you are obligated to give each person money. Right now, as our economy is in freefall due to the COVID-19 scare, many people are in peril of losing their jobs and potentially ending up homeless themselves.
With that backdrop, you still have the reality of walking on the street and being pressed for cash. My recommendation is to remember that the people asking are human and desperate. Even when you cannot or choose not to give them money, say hello. Look them in the eye and tell them to be safe or have a good day. Say something that humanizes the moment, including, “Sorry, I don’t have anything to give you.”