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?