Charity is a virtue that we all have to some extent. The amount of charity we are willing to dispense may have its base in our moral or religious values or it could simply be at our discretion based upon our perceived ability to be charitable or willingness in any given situation. We discuss charity on the Prepper Journal from the standpoint of actions you can take after a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI event to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We make plans to set aside certain items with the idea that we will be charitable in some way if it all goes to hell.
But even if we have set aside more than we need with the express intent of ‘giving until it hurts’ I think there does need to be a little more thought put into how we plan to dispense charity if we want to protect ourselves as much as possible. Assuming it is the end of the world as we know it and you and your family, thanks to your preparations are adjusting to the crisis more or less unscathed. Have you thought about what affects your planned acts of charity when SHTF could have on your safety? Could that food you have stored in individual packets ‘to give out as charity’ end up getting you killed?
Should you plan for charity if SHTF?
I thought about this after an encounter I had a while back. I work in a decent sized city and we have our fair share of homeless people who are more visible now that the weather has started to warm up. I see them frequently when I go out walking but the other day when I was out picking up lunch, a visibly homeless man walked up to me and asked for fifty cents. I was just coming back from the sandwich shop and I had my drink in one hand and the bag with a tasty sandwich and chips in the other. He said he was just trying to get something to eat and regardless of what he actually did after he left me, the point is that I had an opportunity to dispense some charity.
I could have given him a dollar but instead I gave him ten dollars and told him to take that and go get a whole meal. It could have been an act, but he looked seriously confused. He said “Is this enough for a sandwich”? to which I told him he could get the whole meal I had and the store was just right down the street. He asked me to tell him what to say and I told him to order the #9 and what the sandwich had on it. He thanked me and walked away. I don’t know what he did with the money but that isn’t the point. I was able to give and I did.
I don’t think it will be any different if SHTF except that our willingness to give could change if the supply we have is more finite. There will still be people who want to help someone out who is down on their luck and I hope in some way I am able to dispense charity like I tried to do with this man on a street in the city. Could you be taken advantage of by people? Sure you could. Many of you would assume (normally I would too) that the man walked around the corner and promptly bought a cheap bottle of booze or the money went to drugs and that could be the case. As I sit here now, I am not harmed by what he did with my charity or the motives behind him approaching me. I could afford to give him the money and in doing so feel like I did my Christian duty in some small way.
But if the same scenario happens after TEOTWAWKI, that same interaction of someone asking me for a meal could have completely different consequences.
Charity in the Depression
In the Great Depression there were millions of people out of work and who would routinely beg for either a meal or the opportunity to work. If we have an economic collapse like the Great Depression I believe it will be so much worse than conditions in the Depression. I know as a society we will be nowhere near as able to deal with the loss of jobs. Our society was largely agrarian in the 20’s so many simply continued living normally. Food wasn’t purchased in the grocery store it was grown or raised in your yard. Now most of our food is not grown anywhere near us and the people who are forced to beg for meals if the economy collapsed now could be exponentially greater and more desperate. Our moral standing isn’t what it used to be and we do not value life or honor the way our relatives in those days did.
Hobo’s would travel around looking for work or a handout and they had a system for marking homes they had been to with symbols. The symbols alerted other hobo’s as to the conditions in the homes. Symbols conveyed messages like ‘Food for Work’ or ‘Kindhearted Lady’ that communicated to anyone who approached the homes and saw the symbols, what their odds for charity were.
There were also other symbols that said things like ‘Tell a hard luck story here’ or ‘talk religion get food’ or my favorite ‘Cowards. Will give to get rid of you’. There is a whole series of hobo signs documented on this site. The point I am trying to make is that beggars can sometimes try to fool you. The best scenario in this situation is that they would leave with a little food. The worst case is you could get killed. At least they wouldn’t be back if that happened.
What do you need to do in order to avoid being the victim?
So how can you identify people who are truly in need of charity and more importantly how can you give out food or supplies or whatever you have planned in a way that doesn’t A) label you as an easy mark for future beggars and B) doesn’t get you killed for your supplies? I am not talking about people begging on the streets necessarily because I think walking downtown for a sandwich is going to be out of the question if we go through an economic collapse. I am talking about drifters. The people you will encounter on your streets and in your driveways. They may even be your neighbors.
Have a plan for Charity – I think that at some point we will all need to face the fact that our plans for riding out the apocalypse behind our doors isn’t realistically a long-term solution. You will need to interact with people and more than likely you will encounter an opportunity to provide charity. It may be that it is you who after you run out of your rice and beans, actually needs charity.
There will be people who come to the door. What do you do when they show up? Do you let them get all the way to your front door? If not, those are security issues you have to decide and plan for. What do you give them if they are hungry? Hurt? About to give birth? Dying of a gunshot wound? Does your charity have limits or guidelines? I think it is better to consider this now rather than assuming nobody is getting in until the last bean is gone. Besides, the person you help out could end up helping you out someday. Charity isn’t the problem; it is how we dispense it.
Set Ground Rules – Who gets what and how much and under what conditions? Do you have care packages of shampoo and toothbrushes to give out? What if they are asking for food? Do you give them some food and send them on their way? Do you invite them in if they look ‘like good people’? Do you allow them to sleep in your garage? What if your planned charity items are all gone? Some sample ground rules are:
- Never let a stranger into your house.
- People entering your property should be searched, preferably with plenty of security away from your home
- Never answer the door without a plan for alternate points of entry (guard the back doors too)
- The best plan is to not let anyone get to your door without your knowledge
- Never dispense charity from your in-house stores
- Work for food – if you plan to give out charity make it the result of work. If they work for a full day you will feed them for the day
Your rules will depend on your outlook on the prospects of charity, but it makes sense to set them down now.
Accept there will be cases of fraud but try to limit your risk – I don’t think you can ever assume that all people are bad in desperate times, just like I know all people are good in good times. People will lie to you. Some could be out to hurt you and take what you have. You could have cases where women are willing to work in special, personal ways for food or they could make you believe that some special snuggling is going to happen so you lower your guard.
Some preppers plan to dispense charity through a third-party like their church. This sounds great on the surface, but I don’t know how that will work in reality. Do you give all of your extra supplies to the church and tell them not to name you? What about when those supplies are gone? Assuming you were producing more food would you keep making food runs to the church and telling anyone who stopped by looking for a handout that there is food at the church and sending them on their way with a map? What if the church was overrun by a gang? Does your charity stop with what you already gave the church?
Let’s say you have given a ton of your supplies to the church and someone shows up on your door. She is a woman, no more than a girl really with a small child, it is late and the temperature is in the 20’s at night. The plan above would be to send her to the church but you know she won’t make it there tonight. She could have someone waiting in the dark for you to open the door. What do you do?
Protect yourself – I don’t have all of the answers, actually this post probably raises more questions. The point I am trying to make is that you need to think about how you will give out charity just as much as what you are setting aside for charity. I am sure that some people were injured and taken advantage of by hoboes even during the depression. If we go through a similar set of financial circumstances we could be in for the same challenges on a larger scale. Life in that respect will be much harder than most of us have ever experienced.
I still believe we can and should dispense charity as much as we can but I think we shouldn’t let our guards down. We should look at charity as a transaction between two people which is conducted with clear guidelines and rules. Even bartering would have risks in a SHTF scenario and there should be some distance I believe emotionally and physically if you want to do everything you can to ensure your safety. You can give out food if you want, but I would exercise extreme caution when you do. The bar for charity should be much higher in a SHTF scenario than a guy walking up to you and asking for some pocket change. Instead of losing some cash, you could lose everything.
What are your plans and thoughts on charity when SHTF?