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Bryce Covert
Bryce Covert is an independent journalist writing about the economy and a contributing op-ed writer at the New York Times.

Pay the Homeless

Santanu Majumdar / Getty

Bryce Covert | Longreads | June 2018 | 10 minutes (2,546 words)

He was standing on the median of a busy road one morning in the dead of a Massachusetts winter. With bare hands, he clutched a sign asking for money. I was a freshman in college driving to CVS, warm in my car.

I grew up in a rural beach community, where I hadn’t encountered many panhandlers. My experiences with people asking strangers for money came from a few family treks into New York City. Still, I had somehow absorbed a lesson—either spoken or implied, I can’t quite remember—about how to react: Don’t give any money when people ask for it. Doing so will only lead to bad things. The bad things weren’t specified, but drugs and alcohol were likely culprits, with the idea being that giving money to an addict hurts more than it helps. So when I passed that man asking for change, I wasn’t sure what to do.

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