How Do You Deal With Homeless People When Shooting?

In Blog by James Brandon9 Comments

Here’s another shot from the Niles City ruins in Fort Worth Texas. On our second trip there, we pretty much explored the entire place. All 20 some odd buildings. This was one of the last buildings that we went into. During our first trip we actually ran into one of the homeless men living on the grounds and he kept his distance from us the entire time. This time we didn’t see anybody but there was certainly plenty of evidence that we weren’t alone. This suitcase was sitting in the corner on top of a pile of trash and old clothes. It’s really sad to think that people live like this and I never know quite what to think about it. I’m one of those guys who actually will offer to buy someone food if they ask. The problem is, they are almost always just asking for money and when you tell them you’ll buy them food they aren’t interested.

My wife Kristin worked for a youth group for a couple of years and they visited a bunch of homeless people on regular basis down in San Antonio who lived under a bridge. It was really amazing to hear their stories about how they got there and how they viewed their situation. Several of them actually looked us right in the eyes and said to never give them money because they’d just use it to support a drug or alcohol habit. I think somewhere around 95% of the people living there were addicted to some sort of drug and in most cases the drug addiction is actually what led to their current state of homelessness. One man was even a doctor. A medical doctor! But he had gotten addicted to cocaine and lost everything. Others chose the lifestyle they were in because they didn’t have to answer to anybody, be anywhere at any certain time or do anything they didn’t want to do. It really was fascinating and terribly hard to understand.

So what’s your take on all this? Are you the one who always says, “No, I don’t have any money,” and avoids eye contact even if you have $10 in your pocket? Would you gladly give the person money and give them the benefit of the doubt, trusting they will use the money to better their state? Would you offer instead to buy them a warm meal or a drink? Hope this gets some good conversation going, I’m interested to know what everyone thinks!

  • Mark Neal

    Great shot James. Really like the textures and tones.

  • Filip Farag

    Rarely. I would give them some change more often if I could be 100% sure they're not going to waste it on drugs or alcohol…

  • Jim Davis

    I will talk to them, for the most part they all want to talk and share their story. I will not give them money but will buy a meal, giving them money will not do them any good. If they refuse a meal they are no worse off.

  • Ashley Hoyle

    It definitely depends on the feeling I get. Most of the time I offer food (always have protein bars etc in my car). It breaks my heart because you just don't know who actually needs it and who doesn't. In Seattle there is a program called Real Change that helps.people get back on their feet. They sell mini newspapers Full of info and interesting local stories. I always buy one of those to help them out and I like the paper too. As I said before totally depends on the vibe.

  • Peter Speight

    I prefer to help the people who help them. They are the most experienced at giving the homeless what they really need. About the only middle men / women that I really appreciate!

  • Jerry Bowley

    I have to admit with a bit of shame that I'm the pessimist who assumes the money will go towards undesirable habits. I'm also usually insensitive to their situation and instinctively think they should put as much effort into finding a job as they do pan-handling. That being said, on the occasions when I have put my selfish prejudices aside and actually helped someone in one of these situations (served meals at a homeless shelter, paid to have my windshield washed at a red light, etc), my reward has been a better understanding of their plight and empathy for their true situation (as opposed to the one I have concocted in my head).

    What needs to happen in my case is for this new-found insight to replace my opinionated, unfair assessments as my instinctive reaction to requests for help.

  • James Brandon

    +Jerry Bowley Thanks for your honesty. I think we all struggle with those thoughts at one time or another. Your statement reminded me of a video that I first saw around a year ago. Here's the link ( I also just posted it to my G+ feed as well. If you watch through the video and take note of what is said at 2:23 on the timeline, the video asks a great question and makes a great point.

    It seems to me that it's better to help and be made a fool for helping than to not help and lend our hand to someone else's poverty because we think we know their situation.

  • A.Barlow

    First off, nice shot man.

    I normally keep a buck or two on me actually just for those times as you’re not bound to get much in the way of drugs for a dollar. Like you though I tend to offer to buy them something to eat. I’ve taken a few out to lunch and dinner too. Their stories are amazing.

    While I think a majority of them do have drug issues, the sad fact remains that a vast amount of us are nothing more than a string of bad luck away from homelessness. Drugs or no drugs.

  • mark

    Nice composition, you used blur to good effect.

    When you give someone something don’t presume how it will be used, just give it to them. We live in a world of inequality and charity is a manifestation of that. Don’t make it worse by attaching strings.