Beneficence, Street Begging, and Diverted Giving Schemes

In recent years, some cities and localities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere have adopted or intend to adopt one potential solution to the difficulties inherent in addressing the needs of street beggars: diverted giving schemes (DGSs). A DGS is an institutional response designed to motivate people to donate money in charity boxes or donation meters rather than directly to street beggars. Their advocates believe that DGSs are both more efficient and more ethically permissible than direct giving to individual beggars.

This article asks whether and how a DGS can be justified. It offers a normative evaluation of the main idea behind this policy, namely, that anonymous and spontaneous donations to charity boxes are in themselves an adequate policy instrument to address the problem of street begging.

Ultimately, the paper argues against this idea and develops the case that DGSs can potentially compromise our ability to act on our moral duties toward truly needy beggars. Moreover, it explains why and under which circumstances this kind of program can potentially and seriously interfere with the freedom and opportunities of individuals in the begging population.

Publication Date: 
Sage Journals
Journal Name: 
Political Research Quarterly
United States