8 reasons why i give money to panhandlers

“don’t give a panhandler money! he’ll only buy drugs!” we’ve all heard this.

today i gave a hefty amount of money to the guy who always sits in front of my neighbourhood supermarket. the parking sign pole against which he was leaning was shaking because he was shivering so hard. i made him promise to leave for the night and watched him go.

while i completely believe that it’s everyone’s decision whether and what they give, i thought i’d tell you the reasons why i give money:

  1. it’s respectful. they don’t sit there to ask for food, they ask for money. most panhandlers are savvy; they know where the food banks and soup kitchens are. for one reason or another, they don’t want to go there. there’s something rude about someone asking for one thing and then giving her or him something else. when i ask to borrow your pen, you don’t give me a lighter either, do you?
  2. i don’t know whether the person is using it for drugs. having working with very poor people for a number of years, i’ve met numerous panhandlers who didn’t use it for drugs.
  3. even if they’re using it for drugs, they’re not going to stop using if i don’t give them money. even if nobody gave them money, they’d still not stop using. it’s like hoping that removing wine glasses will stop someone from being an alcoholic.
  4. even if they use it for alcohol or drugs – guess what, i (and you) support a lot of peoples’ bad habits. of the bankers, politicians and multinationals that make money from me, how many do you think spend money on cocaine? gas-guzzling SUVs? booze?
  5. panhandlers are micro entrepreneurs. i like the spirit of independence.
  6. panhandling is hard work. if you don’t think so, try it yourself. i respect hard work.
  7. there’s something honest about panhandling. the panhandler who just sits there quietly or asks politely for change doesn’t try to sell me a dream of a slimmer body, a happier child or better sex. it’s a straightforward kind of business. (btw, i can’t stand those frauds who try get money by telling me that they just arrived from calgary and all they need is a few bucks to call their ailing mother – i never give a cent to those scammers, only a growl)
  8. above all, agreeing to the exchange as it is proposed – the panhandler asks for money, i give it – gives the person and me a chance to interact as humans. the panhandler asks, i give, we both smile and exchange a few words.  we connect, and we feel good.

what do you do?

27 thoughts on “8 reasons why i give money to panhandlers

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  2. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    I give to panhandlers at every opportunity, for just one, purely selfish reason: being Kind releases “happiness hormones” in my brain that make me feel good. See here:

    http://barkingunicorn.wordpress.com/2009/09/08/kindness-the-sovereign-simple-remedy/

    So it doesn’t matter at all what the recipient does with my Kindness. He doesn’t have to live up to my expectations. He doesn’t have to thank me. He doesn’t have to say “please”. He doesn’t have to look or act or smell respectable. I get my Kindness chemicals from myself.

    The only ones who don’t get my Kindness are the dishonest. A “Veitnam” (sic) vet who’s obviously under age 30. The woman who was still 8 months pregnant three months after I first met her. The infuriating thing about bullshit is the author’s insinuation that his audience is stupid. I won’t reward dishonesty.

  3. Roger von Oech

    Over 40 years ago, when I was twenty and had very little money, I met a panhandler in New York City who was about my age. He told me that he usually took in about $50 a day (which was a lot of money then). That made an impression on me.

    Over the next year, I saw many other panhandlers, and I realized that it took a lot of time and energy on my part to stop, engage with them, and then figure out which ones I should give a nickel or dime to.

    I then made a decision that I’ve stuck with for the past forty years: I don’t give money to any them. I’ll usually smile and say, “Good luck to you.” But I don’t give them any money. It’s saved me a lot of hassle, and it makes it a lot easier to walk down city streets.

    I give to a lot of charities and make donations in other ways to my community. But panhandling is something I decided not to support.
    .-= Roger von Oech´s last blog ..New Version of Creative Whack Pack App! =-.

  4. Glenn Mori

    meh, I don’t give money to panhandlers.

    1) I don’t like to be bothered. Just like I don’t like talking to telemarketers and most of the time not to survey takers, I just want to be able to do what I’m in the process of doing without being interrupted.

    2) Because of 1) I don’t want to encourage people to panhandle in the future.

    3) I don’t feel anything positive coming from the interaction with panhandlers. All I feel is a negative, the pressure at the onset to give, just because I’ve been asked.

    4) I’ve had my own negative experiences with panhandlers. Once was stopped at night at my apartment with my car window down putting the key into the underground parking door. He wanted $30 for something but asked for “just” $5. Talked about gangs he knew in Chinatown and how he could get the money from someone but we wasn’t allowed to go into Chinatown to find someone. Told me how he would meet me to pay the money back. He knew where I lived, since I was waiting to open the underground parking, and my car was vulnerable since he was standing outside my window. When I opened my wallet to give him $5 to get rid of him he saw that I had more money and wanted the full $30 that he needed. I didn’t see any way out of it at that point and gave him the $30.

  5. Wolf

    Almost always give money to panhandlers….not the aggressive ones tho….
    Giving to the charities is great, a lot of people arent able to jump thru’ the hoops, in order to receive any aid. That in it self, becomes a full time, exhausting job.
    When I hand out money, it becomes theirs, to do with as they please. They arent paying for my moral judgements.
    Sometimes I can only afford a dollar, other times, have given much much more.
    I would hope if I were ever in that position, that someone could be interrupted, to help another human.

  6. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    Roger is envious of someone he met 40 years ago who, in Roger’s opinion, earned too much money. So he is ruled today by a greedy feeling that no longer exists.

    He is also ruled by greediness for time in which do things.

    “To stop suffering, stop greediness,” said the Buddha.

    Glenn is ruled by fear that he felt 5 years ago, which arose from his own imagination. “Our fears always outnumber our dangers,” said the ancient Romans.

    “The whole secret to existence is to have no fear,” said the Buddha.

    Both of these beings are denying themselves the benefits of being Kind because they fear losing something of far less value. They are “of unskillful means,” in Buddhist parlance.

  7. isabella mori

    i’m quoting from the berkely buddhist priory (http://www.berkeleybuddhistpriory.org/_dharma/compassion.htm)

    “do not criticize but accept everything,” is great master dogen’s teaching in the kyojukaimon. in her commentary on that teaching, rev. master jiyu-kennett wrote:

    each expresses the truth in his own way as do all things; they do that which they do in their way and express the lord within it. do not criticize the way of another, do not call it into question; look within it and see the lord. look with the mind of a buddha and you will see the heart of a buddha.”

  8. Glenn Mori

    Glenn is ruled by fear that he felt 5 years ago, which arose from his own imagination. “Our fears always outnumber our dangers,” said the ancient Romans.

    Brilliant of you to realize that my point number 4. rules me.

  9. nancy (aka moneycoach)

    When I first moved to the dtes I didn’t give money to panhandlers. And then I met a couple gentle former-addicts who did. When I asked, one of them responded that the person might use the money for drugs, or for a slice of pizza. He was so gentle and non-judgmental that my previous hard-line dissolved and from them on, when I had change, I handed it out. Which is not to say that from time to time I didn’t get super irritated with the multiple requests between Waterfront Station and Alexander Street! But on the whole, it ultimately became an act of gratitude for me.
    .-= nancy (aka moneycoach)´s last blog ..Live Blog: Buffett and Gates on What Makes America Great =-.

  10. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    Nancy, “irritation” at multiple requests for money is actually anger; isn’t it, dear?

    Anger arises always and only from fear. Anger is the fight-or-flee adrenaline response to a perceived threat.

    ALL fear is fear of LOSING something – including losing the absence of something, e. g., the absence of cancer.

    In this case, it seems your “irritation” arises from fear of losing money – of no longer having enough of it if you give to all who ask.

    But do you really believe you will run out of money, dear? I don’t, and I never do.

    There was a time when money was difficult for me to obtain. I was down to two dollars in the whole world. I gave one to a panhandler.

    When I got home, I found someone had sent me, via Paypal, $100 with a request for some easy work he needed done that very day. He even apologized for “disturbing your Sunday.” 🙂

    It’s called “just-in-time inventory control,” I think.

    “In your hopelessness is your only hope,
    “And in your desirelessness is your only fulfillment,
    “And in your tremendous helplessness suddenly the whole existence starts helping you.”

    — Osho

    Be brave, Nancy. Bravery beats courage, for bravery is not tolerance of fear but the banishment of fear with faith.

  11. ClinicallyClueless

    I usually do not give money to panhandlers; however, I felt God prompting me too for one person.

    Generally, I put together a bag of toiletries, two bottles of water (one for drinking and one for hygiene needs if they want it), non perishable food items, toilet paper, sometimes food gift certificates, maybe an umbrella and information of where to obtain help.

    At times, I have taken them to a nearby resturant to talk and listen to their story and help to problem solve. Sometimes, I just listen. Sometimes, I pray with them or for them.
    .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog .."I Will Carry You" ~ Michael W. Smith ~ Worship in Song, =-.

  12. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    But those were different people from the ones who asked you for money. Would you give every sick person insulin because you once talked to someone who said he needed insulin?

    Putting together, carrying about, and handing out boxes of things is tedious, isn’t it? I’d rather just give a fellow what he requests and be on my way. I can pass out dollars to more people than I can gives boxes to, so I help more.

    I’m not sure how often I could have lunch with a homeless person, or whether he’d be ready to eat when I was ready to feed him.

    Seems more efficient and apt to suit the asker’s needs to just give him what he requests.

  13. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    Perhaps I misunderstood you. When a person asks you for money, do you then ask him what he need; go to a store and buy it; and return to him with a box full of what he needs?

    I don’t see where I used any word resembling “useless”. That must be you talking to yourself. It has nothing to do with me.

  14. ClinicallyClueless

    No you did not use the word “useless,” and it is not me talking to myself. But, in the way that you commented it seems like if I didn’t give exactly what they asked for that I was wrong.

    I have asked for what the person needs, but often times it is at the end of a freeway and I can only have that type of conversation if I get stopped by the light.

    What I put together is also based on what the homeless shelters in our area suggests.

    I am only sharing what I do. I don’t expect everyone to agree or have the time or want to do what I do.
    .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog ..Holidays ~ A Time for Change =-.

  15. ClinicallyClueless

    One interesting thing that found is that the number one thing on the homeless shelter’s list is DO NOT give money. I live in Los Angeles County and have worked all over the county and I get the same advice. I do wonder if the panhandlers in other counties and countries are different.

    One news story by a local television station, did a study and found many people making a good living off of panhandling. One person had a very nice apartment and made approximately $50,000 a year which is more than I made as a social worker. But, that would be such a hard way to make a living…it created resentment toward panhandlers.
    .-= ClinicallyClueless´s last blog ..Holidays ~ A Time for Change =-.

  16. The Barking Unicorn, Denver CO between dimensions

    The homeless “advocates” who advise you to not give money to the homeless are motivated by greed. They want you to give your money to them instead.

    They are also motivated to keep the homeless dependent upon them; to control the homeless and force them to behave as the shelter operators want them to behave. Typical egotism.

    Same thing as giving what you think is good for a person instead of what is requested, and requiring a person to eat with you, on your schedule, so that you can be sure he/she eats instead doing something else.

    News stations don’t do “studies,” which take time, money, and rigorous scientific skills. Instead, news stations seek out a few examples that support a delusion they wish to promulgate – ideally, a delusion that outrages people and confirms their prejudices. That’s how you get good ratings and justify your advertising rates.

    Why did you switch from “many people making a good living” to “that was probably not the norm”?

  17. Rick

    As someone who can speak from both sides of the fence, having been there, done that, my advice would be to follow your heart, use your head, and if you want to give, give. For every person that gives to a homeless person, there are a thousand that pass by with their nose in the air, flip the bird, or honk and say “get a job”. So, do you want to be one of the thousand and run with the pack, or do you want to make a difference?
    Usually I needed a motel room for the night when I held a sign. Many cities have a 3-night per month limit on shelter stays. After those 3 nights you’re on your own. I never used the money for drugs. I can’t speak for other people i the world. I would say, use your intuition, guided by your heart and available resources. A few kind words to someone go a long way, also, more than a few dollars would. Show an interest, let them know that they are human (many of them feel less than human) and it’s really not about the money…just knowing that someone cared enough to stop for a minute will brighten any homeless person’s day. It’s degradating to stand there with a sign…whatever the reason, you can know for sure that the person is hurting inside, whether or not they show it.
    .-= Rick´s last blog ..The Drunk, The Man In The Wheelchair, And The Cross =-.

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