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Our cashless economy is convenient, but here’s who loses out

Homeless woman

Philippe Lissac / Godong

Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/13/22

This trend is making life even harder for the most vulnerable among us ... but you can help.

Sitting behind my computer talking to my mom on my smartphone, I feel grateful for everything technology allows me to do. However, for those living on the streets, technological advances are leaving them in a more vulnerable position.

I live in the beautiful city of Paris, and as in many other metropolises, there are a number of homeless people who take shelter on street corners, in the subway, and on park benches. Over the past few years their numbers have climbed, and with political and economic uncertainty, their plight won’t be improving in the near future.

It’s a heartbreaking situation and, like so many people, I always try to help them as and when I can. Normally this entails offering a few euros, a subway ticket to get around, or if I have more time, I get them some food.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that when I go to take some money from my purse to give to them, I don’t have any. With contactless payments making financial transactions so easy, I rarely have the need for cash.

It’s becoming more than a cash problem, though …

To make matters worse, the French minister of transport has decided to do away with the old subway tickets that I’ve been using for the last 20 years. I’ll no longer be able to use my single cardboard tickets that I buy in books of 10, but I’ll need a computerized travel pass in my name. So, I won’t be able to give the homeless a ticket for public transport.

A homeless gentleman near my home told me that he is more desperate than ever. Not only is he receiving fewer cash donations and tickets to get around, a further technological change is also impacting what passers-by are giving him.

In France, employees of middle- to large-sized companies receive luncheon vouchers — a little paper book with vouchers worth around €7 that you can rip out and buy lunch with in a bakery or cafe. Often people give a couple of these away during the month to the homeless to ensure they’d have a proper meal. Now these books have been replaced with a kind of personalized credit card.

We can still help

Obviously the homeless were not a consideration when these decisions were made; however, it’s important for us to make a concerted effort to continue helping them.

I’m trying to get in the habit of taking cash out every couple of weeks so I can continue to give to those in need whom I meet when I’m out.

But I’m pretty useless at remembering things, especially with the demands of family and work life. So I came up with a prompt, and it seems a little like divine intervention: After Mass each week I withdraw money from the bank near my church. For now it seems like the best way I can continue to give support to those who on the street in need.

Acts of KindnessCatholic Lifestyle
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