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A handout is something given freely or distributed free to those in need.
It can refer to government welfare or a charitable gift, among other things. Handouts may also refer to materials handed out for presentation purposes or to short, usually single-page printed materials or assignments distributed in high school or college - these are physically similar to the Flyer(pamphlet)s on the Disambiguation page.
During the Great Depression, many people lived entirely on handouts of one kind or another. The term became especially popular among hobos, who developed a system of signs and symbols to describe the nature, quantity, and availability of handouts.
The term "handout" is used in sociology to distinguish direct payments from other forms of welfare support such as low-interest loans, subsidized housing, or medical care. However, some people feel it has a negative connotation, with the implication that a handout is unearned and undeserved, unlike a "donation" or "contribution". "Give a hand up, not a handout" is a common remark among proponents of workfare or other welfare-to-work systems. The term "government handout" is often applied to both welfare systems as well as corporate welfare or pork.