Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When do you Give $$$ to Panhandlers?

Working downtown, I get asked for money a lot--panhandled. I don't know a better word than "begging" although the connotations conjure someone in rags pleading for a few scraps of food. Some requests for money are assertive to point of aggression. Most well-traveled street corners have people stationed with hand-lettered cardboard signs that request money. When do you hand over the spare change, the dollar, the five, or more?

I have a few personal guidelines that I've never taken the time to formalize, but thought I'd share those and get others' thoughts.

When I don't give:

1. Remember the "regulars" and don't play: if they still haven't gotten that money together for a gallon of gas to get home, another buck isn't going to do it either.

2. Kids with really nice sport shoes (new Nikes or New Balance.) If they really needed money for the bus, they'd use that sweet little Samsung camera phone to call home. They're doing it as a hobby or a social event.

3. People with cardboard signs. They're frequently #1 regulars but there are exceptions.

When I consider it:

1. Hungry, dirty and tired. My town gets lots of kids coming through in the summer with big backpacks and not enough funds for the festival routes in the West. I've bought 10 tacos for a couple and sometimes give money.

2. It might just be an unexpected angel: there's just something that makes you want to help.

When I give:

1. Every payday money is deducted from my check to support my local community charities. Although I give regularly to other causes, this is my way of making sure that if I passed someone up in error, there is some sort of safety net.

2. I organize a food drive every fall at work. This year we finished up in early December in time for the holiday rush at the local food bank. This years' food and cash donations equaled about seven tons of food.

3. Street Performers: If someone wants to put out a hat and play the saxaphone, I'll drop a coin in.


Tricia said...

We don't really have panhandlers where I live. Instead, there are many "drives" to help out others who need it and we actually have many organizations that help out. My area is economically depressed and has a low population - so that might be the difference.

Although I don't have much to give, I try to give where I can in terms of clothings and other items.

Thought provoking post - very nice :)

Miserly Bastard said...

I never give money to panhandlers. No exceptions. Many have substance abuse problems. Many are mentally ill. Some are able bodied and thus "voluntarily" poor in my mind. Many are aggressive panhandlers. And--let me fess up here--I just find most bums disgusting and unworthy of sympathy. (Heartless, I know.)

In those rare instances when you encounter a panhandler who truly seems needy (e.g., elderly, non-alcoholic, minority, and disabled), if you still feel the need to "do something", I think you should give money to a charity organization that is better situated to make permanent improvements in a person's plight.