I want to start this post by saying don’t get me wrong, charity is very important. Please, please, please continue to give your time, money, and effort towards those who you feel motivated to help. Many agencies survive entirely on charity, are supplement their services greatly through donations and volunteers. So please, don’t take this as a post bashing charity, as it is an important piece of the puzzle. It just isn’t the whole puzzle.
At the health centre where I worked as a nurse, we provided our homeless clients on request with items like toiletries, bus tickets, shoes, socks, and food. However, the demand was great, so we were forced to put a number of restrictions around the giving of these items. So, for example, we would receive a supply of bus tickets at the start of each month. If we were to give them to everyone who asked, they might last a few days. Instead, we built in a policy that they are only to be given to those who have a medical appointment to attend that we have booked. This makes them last most of the way through the month.
So, we could get more bus tickets (or food, or toiletries, socks & shoes), and give them out more freely. However, the need is so great, and the poverty to absolute, that we could easily consume the entire budget of the entire centre on these basic necessities. And, if services in London became this comprehensive, we would simply draw more individuals who would hear through the grape-vine that you can have all your basic needs met in London (sadly, this would be a novelty).
The thing about charity is that, in a broken system, it will never be enough. The gap between the rich and the poor in Canada continues to grow, unemployment is going up, and shelter usage is increasing. There is no way that we can keep pace with this with our existing charitable giving. Rather, we need to refine the system, and decrease poverty as a whole. I would suggest that charitable donations to your local shelter or soup kitchen, should be accompanied by similar energy and resources given to social and political action. Someone has to turn the train around.