How to Handle Panhandling

April 23, 2012 in Giving

A few years ago, panhandling prevention giving meters (whoa, that’s a mouthful) were installed around Atlanta.  In theory, people are supposed to put loose change into these meters instead of handing it to panhandlers.  The money collected from the meters supports local organizations that fight homelessness, but I’m not sure that I believe that many people put anything in them or that they’ve done much to reduce panhandling in the city.

Meters or no meters, I get asked for money several times a week when I’m walking around the city.  Addressing the roots of the issue (and how it relates to homelessness, mental illness and addiction) is beyond my control, but I often wonder about the best ways to deal with panhandling as an individual.  I don’t believe in giving cash to panhandlers, but I find it difficult to watch someone eat food out of a trashcan and just walk by.  Here are my three tactics for dealing with panhandlers:

Say No and Keep Moving
Some panhandlers can be really bold and pushy.  When someone is aggressive or about to launch into a long story I typically just tell them “No” or “I’m sorry, I can’t.”   I say it respectfully and keep walking.

Give Food or Blessing Bags
I saw a post on Couponing to Disney last year about using items purchased with coupons to make Blessing Bags for the homeless.  I’ve made a few for the homeless people I pass on a regular basis that have granola bars, toiletries and water in them.  When I was going to school Downtown, I carried packs of crackers with me to give instead of money.

Support Organizations that Fight Homelessness
Nonprofits like the Atlanta Union Mission and Gateway Center have programs that do a lot to help Atlanta’s homeless.  Donating your time or money to one of these causes can help get someone off the street through programs that assist with things like addiction recovery and job training.

I’m no expert at this, just a girl in the city who gets uncomfortable with being asked for money from people on the street on a regular basis.  I’d love to get your input on the issue.  How do you handle panhandlers?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

JAMES April 24, 2012 at 8:59 am

I look at a panhandler’s clothes. If his or her clothes are in better shape and more expensive than mine, I will ignore them because I feel they are trying to take advantage of people’s generosity.

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Single & Saving April 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I can relate to that. Someone asked me for money in the grocery store last week and he had way fancier food than I did in his basket. I didn’t want to donate to his purchase of organic chicken sausages. There are definitely panhandlers out there who have homes, cars, etc. and take advantage of the kindness of others.

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Cyndy April 24, 2012 at 11:46 am

The right thing to do is offer food or blessing bags and donate food or money to homeless centers directly. I like to donate to MUST Ministries every chance I get buy one get one free items. Its a good way to share!

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Single & Saving April 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Great point, Cyndy! Nonprofits that have food pantries are always in need of food donations. I keep a bag in my pantry for non-perishable items to donate and drop it off when it gets full. The women’s shelters also have a big need for feminine hygiene products and diapers, so I stock up on those when they’re on sale at CVS.

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Wolf August 28, 2012 at 5:52 am

I am trying to find out how much money the homeless giving meters have made since they were installed. Haven’t found anything related to this. Does any one know the answer? I do know that panhandling is worse than ever in Atlanta.

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Single & Saving September 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Maybe someone at Central Atlanta Progress would know? It seems like they’re the ones who oversee the Stop Panhandling initiative. http://www.atlantadowntown.com/initiatives/stop-panhandling/redirect-giving

I agree with you, panhandling seems to be getting worse. The same man asked me for money four times today.

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