As a social work advocate, I was delighted to read Joel Berg’s article, “The Ethics of Street Giving” (November 16). Whether or not to give money to those who beg on the street is a dilemma many people confront frequently. The piece will help them make more informed decisions.
A more important benefit of the article is the broader picture about the causes of poverty and homelessness. Most articles about these topics stop with citing statistics and describing people in desperate situations. They omit the reality that public officials have the power to reduce the root causes of poverty — if they feel their constituents want them to prioritize that goal. Unfortunately, myths abound about the uselessness of communicating with elected officials, about the need for hundreds of comments, about the requirement to be an expert before a person shares an opinion with a lawmaker.
As Berg stresses, contacting elected officials can do more to address the root causes of poverty than “simply giving away some loose change,” as helpful and fulfilling as that can be. I hope his article will result in more messages to city halls, state capitols and Congress.