What’s the Best Way to Help Someone?

The Houston Chronicle has been running a series called GoodFellows, in which they profile a family in financial straits that can’t afford Christmas.

The stories are both sad and maddening. They are sad because these families need help and maddening because so many men fail to take responsibility for their actions. For instance, one family profiled is a single mom with six kids. SIX KIDS! Her husband left the family after Hurricane Katrina and he’s not paying child support! My wife and I make decent money and we would have a hard time affording six kids. According to the article, this lady works two jobs and brings home $1,000 per month.

The purpose of these GoodFellows profiles is to help these families give their kids Christmas gifts. That’s all fine and good, but these families have needs way beyond Christmas. So, this brings to mind a question:

What’s the best way to help families in need? I mean REALLY help them!

Somehow I don’t think giving them money will help. I think they need more than just money. I think they need to learn to provide for themselves and to learn the art of good decision-making. I’m all for education assistance for those who really want to improve themselves. I would also go for some sort of temporary housing assistance for those enrolled in some kind of college or career training.

This lady is at least going to try to go to nursing school. I think that’s great.

What are your thoughts?

13 thoughts on “What’s the Best Way to Help Someone?”

  1. You’re exactly right…throwing money at people who don’t know how to manage money to begin with will NOT help.

    Don’t give free money – give free food. And there should be birth control in the food.

  2. For about fifteen years we lived in the mountainous region of southwestern Virginia. For those ‘sorry” and “common” men who would not take care of their own responsibilities I loved the words of this feisty granny-lady “You know that boy is in need of a good killing behind the shed.” Perhaps if there were enough of these ‘good killings’ you wouldn’t have these jerks walking away from the messes they have created.

  3. This one is tough. Looks that that winner of a guy was only the father to four of the kids. Where’s the rest of the child support?

    The saddest thing is, that woman could make it on her own. It’s her six kids that are keeping her in poverty. Child support is the most obvious answer, but it’s just a sad situation all around.

  4. They should refer her to the Texas Attorney General’s office. They have a Child Support Enforcement unit that provides free legal services to custodial parents who need help collecting on child support obligations. They can and do garnish wages and/or throw deadbeat dads in jail.

  5. That’s a hard question, but not being able to afford Xmas is not a problem. These people do not need a tree in their living room, or even the suggestion that commercial holidays have any real meaning. Money helps, but the needs don’t end. Gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations and utility payments are helpful. Housing assistance is helpful. Anything that meets an actual need is helpful. Luxuries and foolish spending miss the point, and teaching people that a tree in the house is a need is the kind of thing that breeds financial ineptness and lack of responsibility in the first place.

  6. I’m not sure these people are financially inept. Simply trying to house, cloth, and feed a family of 7 on $1000/mo. doesn’t make you financially inept. I couldn’t do that either. That being said I think the best way to help people is with things they really need – clothing, shoes, toiletries, food. Basic things. This way they can take the money they earn and perhaps use it for something else that month besides basic needs.

  7. Yana, I have to respectfully disagree. While I agree with the point that a lot of this Christmas spending is foolish, until you can change society’s attitude you won’t be able to stop people from wanting their kids to have a “normal” Christmas like everyone else. Kids may not understand that “you don’t get to have Christmas because your mommy and daddy made bad financial decisions”, but they do understand what it feels like to be left out of something that everyone thinks is so important.

    I do feel that it’s the ongoing sense of deprivation that’s going to leave it’s mark. I’m all for educational training and all that other kind of help, but I still think inclusion is key to keeping kids on track in life.

  8. The only thing about her deciding to go to nursing school – It’s not my business, but wouldn’t it be more profitable to go to a 2-year vocational school to learn to do something where you could make a decent amount of money sooner than 4+ years from now?

    My opinion on the Christmas stuff: If it’s a choice between a Christmas tree and basic clothing and hygiene items, the choice is obvious. But it doesn’t really have to be a choice between them, does it? A lot of us could give both – and the worst thing that would happen in that situation is that maybe we “accidentally” give “too much” to someone else.

  9. Moneymonk,

    I agree that financial education is key. However, some people need more than that in order to get their feet on the ground.

  10. Lindsay,

    I think I read in the article that the lady talked about the program taking two years so she may be going for something like a vocational education.

  11. Nursing is a great option as there seem to be plenty of jobs whether you’ve got a 2 yr, 4 yr, masters, etc degree. There’s also a lot of demand for them, so they make good money. If she could get even a 2 year degree, she could make more money.

    The best way to help people is to help them help themselves. I’d be much more happy helping her go to school than helping out with Christmas or even rent money. I only donate to charities that are a hand up instead of a hand out.

    There used to be a charity for the homeless in my area. They had a program in place where you got a place to stay to get you off the street. Then you got a job. Then you moved into your own place. If you didn’t keep with the program, you were out. I thought this was absolutely fabulous.

  12. Nurses are in demand. It is a portable job and there is availability all over the country. With the aging population there will always be a need for nurses. I think her choice of nursing school is reasonable.

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