What will homeless people will do if we all stop carrying spare change? It’s an important question to consider as we move closer to being a “cashless society,” since most people now use a debit card instead of cash, and soon we’ll be using apps on our phones to pay for things, instead of carrying a wallet. But the average person on the street makes between $30 and $60 a day, mostly from the loose change that strangers give from their pockets. So what happens when nobody’s carrying change anymore?
Denver and other cities have installed converted parking meters near panhandling hotspots, asking people to give to homelessness charities, rather than directly to the needy. You can pay with a credit or debit card in those machines. Backers of the meters say they benefit the homeless more than handing out change, because the money goes to job training and housing of the homeless. But Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist who says people give less often when they’re not giving loose change. And Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, agrees. He says people are less likely to give when they’re not face-to-face with a suffering individual, because there’s no heartstring attached to putting money in a meter. That’s why some experts say we may begin seeing more people donating actual goods to the homeless. Like, instead of handing over your loose change, you might walk into a store and buy some food or clothing to give to someone in need on the street.
Just something to think about as our society begins to use less cash.