Panhandlers and the Cashless Society

One trend I’m following with great interest is the move toward a cashless society.  This would certainly be a significant change with, as usual, many unintended consequences.

For example, one of the most common replies to panhandling is “I don’t have change.”  Today that might not be just an excuse.  So is this cashless trend good (discourages begging) or bad (some people really do need help)?  Even if there is no begging — selling a street newspaper, for example — how many people would buy a cheap fundraising product if there was no more cash?

There is a group who sees a solution through that old standby — technology.  Greater Change ( in Cambridge, England is “a mobile donation system designed to help those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”  The system they’ve developed works like this —

Panhandlers receive a QR code (like for online tickets) on a lanyard.  Potential donors scan the code, which tells them the person’s biography with the option to donate.  If a donation is actually made, the recipient first meets with a support worker who helps them set a savings goal.  For example, a rent payment.  When the goal is met, the money goes directly to the landlord.  The person in need gets help, and the donor knows the money is not being wasted.

This idea is still very new.  According to the article which brought this to my attention, “Spare Some Change? How to Help the Poor in a Cashless Society” by Eoin O’Carroll in the September 17, 2018 edition of the Christian Science Monitor ), only 11 people have reached their savings goals so far.  But this could be an idea whose time has come, and it will be interesting to see how far it spreads.




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