Alms Box and the Community Living Off Them

alms box

Alms box is also known as mite box or poor box is used to collect coins for charitable purposes. Many times it was not just money that was dropped into these boxes, people used to give away leftover food as well to the poor.


Nowadays we are all too used to seeing homeless people and people in need walking around asking us for spare change to help them afford a meal for the day. Some people depend on the kindness of the citizens while others try to show off their talents by busking, doing comedy, singing, dancing or any other sort of skill that can attract a crowd. They then let the crowd enjoy the performance and at the end they ask for the crowd to leave them a ‘tip’ if they enjoyed the performance. While these methods of trying to get the people to reach into their pockets for money are new and innovative, this tradition of the poor asking the townspeople for their help and generosity goes back as far as the 12th century 


The 12th century is where the use of the word ‘alms’ was first recorded. Alms is an archaic word which means food and/or money that is given to the poor for free as charity. During the Victorian and Jacobean Eras, boxes were tied and chained near churches and under trees. Citizens could drop in spare change which would then be given to the poor. This box later came to be known as alms box. These boxes were constructed well and were even secured to their place with the help of iron straps which secured the box and ensured no foul play. To this date some of these boxes still exist but have been turned into funds to help out church groups take care of and maintain their sacred religious churches and grounds.  

Alms boxes are also known as mite boxes or poor boxes by most people. Many times it was not just money that was dropped into these boxes, people used to give away leftover food as well to the poor. Along with boxes beggard used to roam around using alms dishes to reach more people and try to get as much money as they can simply by asking around for spare change. This is what laid the groundwork for what we nowadays call charity and charitable institutions. 

Alms Boxes Today:

Nowadays we see temples and churches that have different boxes to support different causes as well. While some boxes are meant to help the poor there are also boxes trying to help those who can’t speak for themselves, animals. Boxes to help preserve greenery are also put up in order to make the people feel as if they can support whichever cause they like by donating through the church or temple. People as a result have gotten creative as well. Homeless people started offering services such as car washes or just entertainment in exchange for money. They would hold up boards on highways and try attracting bored passersby who were traveling across states or cities. Buskers and street artists are nowadays very common and have established hotspots for themselves across the country where they can freely perform and let the public enjoy their craft all while also making enough money to make it through the night. Tourist attractions have also become a major place for buskers and street performers to come to and showcase their talents.

Tourists are always looking to experience the culture of the country they visit along with also seeking entertainment and something new that they haven’t seen before. Tourists get fascinated by these feats easily since it is not something they might see everyday back home and are hence more susceptible to donate and help out the artists by giving him some money. These artists no longer use alms boxes but instead use guitar cases, hats or maybe just a bowl or a cup to collect the change spared. Alms boxes might not be used as much anymore but that doesn’t mean no one is asking for alms. The people just found better ways to do it while still managing to contribute something that they can give back to the person helping them out in the form of a song, dance or even artwork in the form of caricatures.

Alms boxes back then and even now are very important to the homeless community. Earlier it was an effort mainly made by the church to curry favour with the citizens by looking noble and helping the poor out while today, the poor have taken their destiny into their own hands and continue to hustle and try to make it out of poverty and build a life of their own. These new methods of busking, entertaining, drawing, dancing and singing for money all arose from the original alms box. These methods are all they have to start their life again and try getting themselves off the streets. As we see unemployment rates going higher and higher and more and more people who are unable to pay their bills and have to leave their homes, these methods of raising money by yourself for your own survival come into play and are crucial at times to ensure that they are able to get food for the night or water for the next day. 

Alms Box More than Just a Box:

Humanity as a whole has also helped the homeless get a chance at making it again. Social media and internet connectivity have brought people closer than ever before and there are people who use this technology and the reach it offers for the good as they try giving as many talented street artists as they can exposure by just filming and putting a video out there of them performing and doing what they do best every day just for their survival. These short snippets and clips that have been uploaded to social media sites like YouTube can have a huge potential for turning someone’s life around. An exceptional man named Ted Williams had a golden voice and was filmed talking about his life and showing off his skills as a voice actor. Ted was given a new lease of life after he was approached by nickelodeon and other mega radio stations and tv networks to become a voice actor for either their channel or for a product in some commercial, One person’s random act of filming and uploading Ted WIlliams doing his thing was what led him to moving off the streets and into a luxurious apartment that he was able to earn by working as a voice actor for all of these companies and networks. 


While the Alms Box may be old it too has adapted and grown into something much bigger than just a box. It has evolved into a system of people who have nothing still offering whatever they have for the pleasure of the viewer all while hoping they get tipped or given any kind of alms. It is now a system where the people who do it don’t just do it so that they look better in the eyes of their customers but instead they do it out of humanity because when everything said and done all of us are the same. Were all humans and if we don’t help each other out who will?

Alms Box and the Community Living Off Them

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