At my current church, I deal with all of our immediate cash need requests (help with rent, ulilities, gas, etc). The secretary normally handles the food and the head of outreach deals with clothes/toiletries distribution. But I do the money side of things. We never do cash assistance...not as cash cash or checks written to an individual...we only pay a company or landlord or give out gift cards.
Some days, this is an awesome responsibility. I can help families stay in housing, or get the lights back on, or get gas to get home after being in the city for whatever reason (often a court case).
Other days, it is a bit bitter and confusing. We don't have a good system of evaluating a need...there is no form, no structure, it's simply based on my own discernment (and the availability of the resources). Sometimes, my gut tells me I/we are being "had" by an individual. There is something in me that knows we are being conned or schemed and it irks me. But it's a tough contradiction because there's not really a tactful way to say you don't believe someone (especially when your only reason for doubting is your "gut"). And there's always the possibility you're wrong.
It's also frustrating when a group of folks ask for the same exact thing. In Hemet, we had about 3 weeks where I got the same request from about 4 different families "milk, ground beef, diapers, and bread." That was it. It seemed simple enough and we helped a bunch of the families. But then it started to seem fishy and I said no to the next request for the same and then there were no more requests, which made me even more suspicious.
It's starting to be something similar here. I had various requests for gas cards lately...the fishy thing was the requests were coming from the same number, but different names and people were asking for it. I finally said no (finally being after two requests that we filled). It's those kinds of things that make my head spin.
Here's why: On the one hand, this could be a legitimate need and people in similar circumstances often have similar needs, but at the same time, all of the requests seem to come too close together and the same number part is really bothersome. And yet, at the same time, how do I really know what the need actually is? (Or why the need exists...is it because of drugs? unemployment? poor spending? medical bills?) It's a tough call. And should my call be based on the need? or the cause? or...?
And the really tough part for me is that when I feel taxed....like it's request after request and I feel like we are being scammed, I feel like throwing up my hands and saying "no" to everyone involved. Which definitely isn't the right philosophy either...