Water has turned into a huge commodity. As a former retailer I can tell you that water is one of the most profit bearing items in a store. I used to be able to get cases of water for less than $2 each (making the cost of each bottle roughly 9¢ a piece) and the suggested retail price was 99¢. That’s a heck of a margin huh?
In fact, have you seen a water fountain recently? Probably not. Usually only in schools and hospitals anymore, with an occasional sighting at an office building (leftovers from days gone by). They’re getting harder to find, aren’t they? Now imagine you’re homeless. Where do you get a drink of water?
I understand that even if it’s within your means, many people are not comfortable handing cash to the person with the sign at the intersection and I don’t disagree. Sadly there are scammers out there and there is no way to determine who is legit and who just figure it’s a great way to make a buck.
Shortly after I stopped living in a shelter I was back living with my parents. My mom needed to go for a therapy appointment due to an injury, so I dropped her off and used her truck to go grocery shopping. When I got back, there was a man in the parking lot begging for money from everyone he could find talking about how he, his wife and child were now living on the streets and hungry. When he approached me, I let him know that I had no money but that I had just gotten done grocery shopping and walked him to the back of the truck asking if he had the means to cook and started pulling out groceries for him. He thanked me and turned down my offering of food, then proceeded to go skittering off to the fast food drive thru next door to return to his quest for cash.
Please do not take what I’ve said as a reason to never help someone with a sign. There are many, many needy people who need our help and cities and municipalities are really aiming to put the homeless population out of sight and out of mind. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my piece on the homelessness – Insights into the Dark – I would ask you to check it out when you have a chance.
I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge everyone who reads this to buy a case of bottled water. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just whatever you can find at the best price, and keep it in a cooler with a little ice. As you’re driving around town doing errands and you see someone with a sign, sleeping on a piece of cardboard or a park bench or under an overpass – offer them a bottle of water. It’s a small kindness that goes an incredibly long way.
I think a case of water at Wal-Mart is around $3.50 and at CVS you can catch it on sale for $2. While you may not be willing to hand someone cash, offering them a bottle of water that cost you 9¢-15¢, that would cost them a dollar or more at the nearest shop is a huge help. Can you think of any other way to help that many people for under four dollars?
It’s a frugal way to help and it’s a great way to help your fellow-man. Thanks for listening.