A single mom in Danville, VA, posted a desperate message on aidpage last month asking for help saying she needed to pay $300 towards her utility bill - the lights were turned off in July and she needed to get them back on. She said she may be pregnant and her bf wasn't helping.
In the scorching weather last month, it was unimaginable anyone would be suffering in the heat. We wanted to help and offered to pay a small amount toward her utility bill if she would volunteer 5 hours at any local shelter.
She claimed to have set up an appointment at the local salvation army and I got an email from "firstname.lastname@example.org" (note the gmail, not corporate address) confirming it. The date came and went and she claimed to have worked there and wanted the money, but I never received a verification email from the lady.
To verify the lights were turned off, and to pay the money directly to the utility company, I asked:
> Can you ask the shelter to email me?
> How have you been managing without lights?
> Also you need to give me the utility company name and their phone number and your account number. if you can call them and tell them you authorize me to discuss your account with them, that will help.
She never gave me the information, all the while claiming the utilities were disconnected and needed to be turned on asap. She said her bf and bf's mother offered to give $200 and the utility company would not receive a part payment from me - they wanted the entire amount in one payment at their office.
I am mentioning this because
1) if you want to help someone, notice the red flags. Don't give money directly, verify their story if possible, and if possible get them to help at a shelter in return. I also wonder how she kept sending email from her phone with the electricity disconnected.
2) if you are a scammer and have read this far, please stop what you are doing. It makes us stop helping any genuine, needy people.
3) If you are desperate, ask yourself, "Where's family?". Parents, siblings, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, relatives.Try to reconcile with family and work out a living arrangement with them. Family is the first place one should go to. There are very few complete orphans. Most people have family somewhere. You may have to humble yourself and in fact, you may be the problem and need to change. This truth may be hard for you to accept.
Also there are homeless shelters that will provide you food and a place to live if you follow their strict rules.
Longer term, get rid of bad habits, rely on God, spend carefully, work hard - in short, help yourself. I have observed that people who are always asking for money (and surprisingly, preachers too) are wasteful and extravagant, even more than wealthy.
A former dentist at a community dental clinic was shocked to find that the patients who were on welfare and asking for full assistance on their dental treatment bills, had fancy i-phones that even she could not afford.
Update: there is nothing wrong with having a cell phone but if your electricity has been cut off and your children are living without fan or air conditioning in scorching heat of July - and last month were record highs, then for me, my priority would be to stop the phone and do all it takes to get the air turned on.