Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Fr., I am having a hard time paying my bills..."


Ok, got that off my chest.

I really hate it when I get phone calls asking for money.  Especially when, to the person, it IS a pastoral emergency.  I used to have people who would call right after the food pantry would close and want food for the weekend.  And then there are the people who are "stuck" in a motel and have no money to pay for the room they were staying in for the past three days.  There are also the ones who can't seem to understand that I DON'T have money to give them, even after telling them that I do not have a discretionary fund.

I also hate when you suggest something like calling 211, and the person asks what it is and then says they called it.  If they didn't know what it was, how could they have called it?

I would love to be able to give something to all the people who call, but when does helping become enabling?


Jay Simser said...

We have a program in Ames called Good Neighbor. Faith Communities contribute and others have fund raisers to help with rent and utilities. They also have some food coupons which they give out. Individual churches also have some money to help.

We had a fund which we kept at the church which was funded especially to help people who came to the church. We had a limit of $10 and they could not come regularly but at least there was something there to help.

Urspo said...

Great question - I suppose it has been asked countless times - anybody with a good enough answer?

Lemuel said...

The pleas for such help always put me in emotional turmoil as well. One soon learns that there are those with true needs and that there are those who are scamming the system. It became apparent to me very quickly that those who called "after hours" were overwhelmingly the scammers. they were after money (for drugs, etc.) not for help. Those who truly needed help were most often very willing to work with agencies of the system (food banks, etc.) that helped them with their particular need. Those who "just had to have help" at very inconvenient hours and who became indignant when you could not/would not help them were working a scam. Talk with other pastors in the area about their experiences, you may find that they have had the very same individuals use the same stories and call at the same times. In about a 15 year span I served three parishes along a corridor of about 35 miles. "My repeaters" were sometimes surprised when I answered the door in a different location.
As for those who needed real help we tried to set up ways in which they could get what they needed without giving the money directly to them. That did a great deal to reduce the number of "false needs".