Do You Give Money to Panhandlers?

by J. Money - Published December 17, 2014

donations for the poor

I did, twice this week.

And each time my wife scolded me.

She tells me it’s smarter to give to “legitimate” charities because you never know if these panhandlers are lying.

Which is true, you don’t, but what if they aren’t?

What if they do have cancer and no home and 5 kids who can’t afford to eat dinner that night?

What if they are a war vet without a leg or a place to go?

I told her I have faith in humanity, and if they really were duping me, well, they need even more help than I can give them.

I also reminded her that I don’t like giving to charity-charities because I never get to see where any of my donations actually go.

I know where they tell me it goes, and I see all the pictures of the sad kids/dogs/countries, but I don’t get to see the exact ones who actually get my money.

I also don’t appreciate the 13 emails I subsequently get every week there after.

Or that when I hit “unsubscribe,” I start getting requests in the mail instead (!!!)

I remind her that this was what prompted Nate and I to start Love Drop – our attempt at making a difference in *one* person’s life directly vs a hundred/thousand/million indirectly.

A project we filmed every month so that people could literally see the faces of the people we helped when we handed over their cash or gifts they had mailed in.

All $90,000 of it.

The reaction on both sides were indescribable (the ones who gave, and the ones who received)

I harbor no ill will towards reputable charities – they’re very much needed in this world of ours – I’m just personally more affected by one-to-one interactions than one-to-organizational ones.

And since I suck so much at contributing to these places, I have a rule for myself that says I have to say “yes” any time I’m asked for money by any one person.

There are limits of course, like if Uncle Jack wants $5,000 for a jet ski – that doesn’t count – but if someone asks to help them fund raise for something important to them, I have to say yes.

I may not be invested in the charitable cause itself, but it doesn’t matter – I’m invested in my friends and my family.

Last month I was asked if I’d contribute to a “walk-a-thon” for a kid, and I gladly said yes.

Yesterday I was asked if I would contribute to friend’s mission to Africa, and so I said yes to that too.

I may not give to world famous charities, but I’m no asshole :)

My wife very much understands this, of course, but says I should at least limit the amount of money I then give to the panhandlers since I restrict myself from saying no.

And, usually, I do.

I typically have tons of change and dollar bills in my car console for exactly these situations (when asked to give while sitting at a light).

But this time I decided to “make it hurt.”

A passage from the Bible crept in and reminded me that it’s a much bigger sacrifice for a poor person to donate a dollar than it is for a wealthy one to donate $1,000.

The more it stings, the better you’re doing.

(At least according to the Bible)

Now, I didn’t reach in my wallet and give these less fortunate ones a $1,000 bill (I’m not that bad ass yet!), but I did give $15.00 worth.

The first I handed over $5.00 which was a lot harder to give than $1.00.

And the next I challenged myself and handed over a $10.00 bill which hurt more than the $5.00 bill, and even more so than the $1.00 bill.

That was the part that my wife had the beef with.

“Wasting” $1.00 is nothing, but reaching for the bigger bills is.

If, of course, you believe the person on the other side is deceiving you.

Which I do not.

Either way, it made for a great discussion between the wife and I, and so I thought I’d continue it here.

(With you guys, not my wife – she’s tired of me ;))

So, tell me…

Do you give money to the homeless and/or panhandlers?

Do you have any of your own rules for donating to charity?

Are you wondering why I’m writing this entire article in one-liners?

I don’t know why I do half the things I do, but I do know that goodness is the only investment that never fails.

And I know this because Henry David Thoreau said so and he’s pretty smart.

—–
UPDATE: I don’t actually have a problem with the “where the money goes” debate with legitimate charities. They all have overhead and at the end of the day they do a ton of good in the world (we also had overhead at Love Drop). I just have a problem with not physically seeing/knowing which person(s) specifically is getting my money. It’s a silly request – and one that a large organization would have a tough time pulling off – but it’s what motivates me to give in the end. Seeing that personal connection and knowing it’s making a difference in that specific person’s life. Kinda like that Starfish story.

[Photo cred: stevendepolo]

Jay loves talking about money, experimenting, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his two beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 137 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pauline December 17, 2014 at 5:22 am

In France there is a “right to housing” law that means you can claim you have no place to stay and the state has to provide. Several charities serve soup or give away groceries in the streets. There are public baths which are free so you can get a warm shower. You get free healthcare if you are below $10K a year. And the state gives you 400 euros a month, about $500 as a guaranteed minimum as long as you make efforts to look for a job, which you are exempted from if you are too sick to work. So with free roof, food, healthcare and $500 in pocket money, I don’t give to panhandlers, especially when they say they are hungry or they need money to stay clean, since showers are free. I guess some are too marginalized to claim those benefits but there are charities for that to help them claim and get back into welfare.

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2 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:39 am

Oh wow – what incredible services France offers! That’s amazing!

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3 Simon Cave December 17, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Good points Pauline! J you have no idea how generous the system is here in France. I find it baffling sometimes.

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4 Petra December 17, 2014 at 5:27 am

Dear Budgets are sexy, I don’t think you’re smart in how you give your money away, and I think your wife is right about this. I am actually a bit disappointed in you. You try to tell us to use our money in a smart way; and then when it comes to charity, you just don’t obey your own rules.

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5 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:41 am

I did obey my own rules – I said “yes” when asked for money :) Though my wife will be glad to see this!

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6 Judi January 15, 2016 at 1:06 am

If he chooses to give money, it really shouldn’t matter where he gives it & actually of him giving it directly to the person who uses it creates many good things in the body that actually increase your health and wellness. On a different not, the president of United Way made 400k. This is pretty common in theses organizations you speak of. If my few bucks make a difference to an individual then I feel good and hope they pass it on one day.

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7 Petrish @ Debt Free Martini December 17, 2014 at 5:45 am

I do give money out to panhandlers, but I have to be moved to do so. I can’t explain it, but sometimes I get this feeling that I shouldn’t give and for those people I will buy a sandwich or offer them to get something to eat. I do believe that there are some people who are down on their luck and just need some help.

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8 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

I like that you follow your feelings :) I do the same too but in times when I think I shouldn’t walk down a certain street or go to a certain party at night/etc. Sometimes we can tell when things have the potential to be troublesome!

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9 JD December 17, 2014 at 6:45 am

I give to panhandlers and don’t regret it. If they are lying to me then it is their problem and not mine. If I was so desperate that I had to ask for money from a stranger I would want someone to help me. We also donate to the local food bank to help our community and to a couple of other great charities to financially help people struggling.

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10 Mrs. Frugalwoods December 17, 2014 at 7:17 am

I agree with your point about not caring how panhandlers will use the money–like you said, if they’re that desperate, then they really do need the support. I’m somewhat in the opposite camp though, I’m more of a donate-to-traditional-charities gal, and I’m OK with the fact that my donation probably goes in part to their overhead. I think either approach is valid, the important thing is to give back in some way.

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11 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:43 am

I’m actually okay with the overhead and what not – we had overheard at Love Drop too – I just like seeing the exact person who’s getting the help :)

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12 Lola December 17, 2014 at 7:32 am

You can read how a charity spends their money by looking at their 990s which are public information.

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13 andy December 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

something i do is give a food gift card to a fast food place or restaurant near where the person is panhandling, especially if their sign says ”hungry, anything helps”.

i also had the privilege this past fall to go on a mission trip to africa. my girlfriend sponsors a child thru a charity and got to meet the child she sponsors and has written letters back and forth to, so that was a cool experience. You’re right, many charities you have to trust or believe where the money is going, but this one you could experience firsthand the work your money is doing.

Link, if it’s allowed: http://mohiafrica.org/

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14 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

Great idea w/ the food gift card!

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15 Jennifer G December 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

The only problem with a food gift card is that if the person you have given it to does not have access to a place to clean up, the food establishment might refuse him/her service (I would hope not, but I imagine it happens more often than not)

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16 Brian December 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

In the city I live in, they set up donation boxes on the street (near the popular panhandler hangouts) that go to local homeless charities.

Personally I don’t usually give money to panhandlers (I’ll sometimes give to a busker, but only if I stop for the entertainment). I understand that life happens and people get into bad situations, but there are so many wonderful organizations that will help if people just ask.

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17 Joyce @ My Stay At Home Adventures December 17, 2014 at 7:47 am

Before I didn’t, but when life throws you a life lesson and you have a close family member on the street asking for money. Is so easy to say go to e shelter, apply here and there. I didn’t know that shelters only allow a certain amount and doors closes. I didn’t know that you needed an address for charities to help you but what happens when you are on the street and have none? Some suffer from mental illness which makes it difficult to help.

So here is what I do. I give my money in good faith and with good intentions. If it is use a different way that’s on you.Just like I used to give my money to charities ( I still do), I give to the homeless. I will never know if every homeless person I give is honest but neither will I know if the charity my money is going to will go to help the needy or pay for the CEO salary.
I give without passing judgement.

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18 Brian December 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

Joyce,

You can look up many charities on http://www.charitynavigator.org/ They give you an idea of how much money goes to admin cost and how much goes out to what the actual mission of the charity is.

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19 Emma Healey December 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

Yesterday I walked past a lady sitting quietly outside a supermarket here in Spain. Her sign said something like ‘I’m a poor woman, with children and I need your help’.
I felt like I should have given her something so on my return trip I emptied my wallet of coins and she thanked me profusely.
I always ask myself how much of a difference giving away $2 will make to me compared to how much of a difference receiving $2 might make to whoever needs it.
I also think we need to trust our gut, I will only give to those I genuinely believe need the help.

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20 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

“I always ask myself how much of a difference giving away $2 will make to me compared to how much of a difference receiving $2 might make to whoever needs it.”

Exactly!!!

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21 Kalen Bruce @ MoneyMiniBlog December 17, 2014 at 7:49 am

Great article, J. I loved the one-liners.

I’ve written quite a bit on this topic and here’s what I have found…

It’s never wrong to give. Whether they are begging for money to spend it on food for their entire family or whether they are begging for money to go buy cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. I don’t think we are responsible for what happens after we give, but I think it’s important to give.

If someone is to the point that they need to beg for money, then they obviously need it more than we do.

For those who feel like they are “enabling” people by giving money, you could always carry around $5 gift cards for restaurants in the area if you are in a place that you’re often asked for money. Or better yet, if you have the time, why not walk over to a restaurant with them and share a meal? I’ve done that before and I promise it is life-changing. Plus, you get a little more insight into their life and you may be able to help them even more.

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22 Kristy December 17, 2014 at 7:57 am

What a great idea! I am going to share a meal with someone the next time I give to someone in need!

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23 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:46 am

That would be incredible :) What a great thing to do with your kids too!

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24 Kalen Bruce @ MoneyMiniBlog December 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Great point! That’s a great example to set for them. :)

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25 Sue December 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

I’m like you-i give to them. Personally I would rather be taken advantage of than not give to someone who needs it. My husband doesn’t agree with me but oh well : )

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26 Laura Gomes December 17, 2014 at 8:13 am

I always try to give a little something. If I have no cash, I’ll share what’s in my car (food, towelettes, whatever might be useful). If I’m at the grocery store, I’ll add some protein, fruit and a drink and give it to the person on my way out. If I’m at a restaurant, I’ll hand over the doggy bag or order something for the person. My spouse and I go ’round and ’round with the “is it legitimate?” and “are they going to buy booze or cigarettes?” issues, but the bottom line is I simply don’t concern myself. I try to maintain an attitude of gratitude, and I believe those who do not share for the greater good reduce the opportunities to bring a little good to the lives of others.

I once worked for a very well known and well respected charity. I never saw so much waste, excess and abuse of the system, so no, I don’t give those entities a dime. I do research before I give to any formal entity, but typically prefer the one on one approach. And if the person needing help has a pet with them, I’m liable to give generously in the hopes the animal will not suffer (I have a soft spot for them). Regardless of the opinions of others, and the legitimacy of the claims by the panhandler, I give for myself. It’s my responsibility to do so, and I take it seriously and don’t give it another thought beyond the immediate joy it brings me to help someone else. If I’m ever in that position, I hope someone rlse feels the same way about me!

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27 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:47 am

I really enjoyed reading this – thanks Laura :)

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28 Kylie Ofiu December 17, 2014 at 8:20 am

I always give. I don’t care how they use it or if they are lying to me. We usually have a chat and there are some I see around a bit.

I volunteer at a high level for a couple of charities and now manage another in Canberra
They are all completely open about where the money goes so I have no issues fundraising or donating to those charities.

I think you did the right thing.

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29 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:48 am

Hi my Australian friend!

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30 Brian @ Debt Discipline December 17, 2014 at 8:21 am

I typically do not give to panhandles. As Kalen suggest I’d rather buy hem a meal or something tangible so as least I know where the money is going.When donating to charities I always check what % of the donation goes to the charity.

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31 Zee @ Work To Not Work December 17, 2014 at 8:39 am

I give leftover food all the time. I rarely ever make it home with leftovers if I go out. The only time I get leftover food home is when I don’t see someone who needs it on the way home with is not very often.

Living in San Francisco there are a LOT of panhandlers, and there’s a fair amount of them that don’t need the money. I remember when I was 16 going to the city with my friends and seeing 25 year olds sitting outside of record stores asking me for money and I remember thinking to myself, “you probably have more money than I do? The fact that you have a dog, skateboard, and probably more than just that one cigarette in your hand means they did.”

Some people it’s easy to tell if they don’t really need the money, I just avoid them. There are others that at least try to tell you jokes or do something to entertain you which I am fine giving them money too. In certain parts of the city within a stones throw you can be asked for money 15 times so you have to setup some filters as to who you think needs it more or at least tried for it more. If they are polite that helps A LOT, some people act like they deserve my money and that’s a big turn off. I just don’t carry enough money on me to make it rain every time I go out, usually it goes to the first people I see though.

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32 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:50 am

Yes, having filters and a system down helps for sure. I like that leftover food idea.

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33 Mark @ BareBudgetGuy December 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

I’ll give if I have cash or change, which I usually don’t. As for donating rules, 10% of the top, now that hurts (which is good)!

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34 Mrs. WW December 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

As I posted recently, I think I’ve worked through it and it doesn’t matter what the receiver does with the money. It’s all about the heart of the giver. I had to figure this out since I have found myself a surprised recipient of charity (since they thought I was in need.) I think the call is for the giver to give, no matter what. There is also a Bible verse about giving to all who ask (you got that one!) and many verses about what you do with money your given. I cannot think of any about the giver being concerned with what the receiver does.

On a similar note: When my husband first moved to the city he was approached by someone asking for money. He gave him a five and went into the gas station. By the time he came out he was swamped with people since the guy was so excited about the fiver he shouted it out. He was driving away while people were actually reaching into his pockets. LOL. Yeah, there are a lot in need out there and a lot who do not handle what they receive well. There’s also a Bible verse that there will always be poor among us, yes?

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35 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

I didn’t know there was a verse about having to say yes! That’s awesome!!

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36 Kassandra December 17, 2014 at 8:55 am

We donate to two charities monthly because they do work that I feel connected to and is important in my eyes. Beyond this, I will give to the homeless that “speak” to me. I cannot explain this with mere words. It’s really about a feeling I get where I am compelled to give to someone on the street, go beyond giving and atttempt to have a conversation with them. I daresay that God whispers in my ear during these strange encounters. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I feel that I am the one who was given a gift.

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37 Hannah December 17, 2014 at 9:08 am

In my opinion, giving should always be about conviction more than effect because effect is largely out of your control. I personally try to strike a balance between giving financially to traditional charities and giving meaningful personal interactions to humans who are down and out.

My husband and I used to keep “help kits” in our car. They had a bit of food (granola bar, bottle of water, and some M&M’s), a pair of wool socks, a $5 pay as you go phone card (received free from our Church for the purpose of these homeless kits), and a travel size ibuprofen and aceteminophin. I think our total cost was maybe 3-4 dollars per kit, and we would hand them out to folks under the highways or in places that were not likely to be lucrative for panhandling. If traffic wasn’t too insane we would always ask their name and offer to pray for them. When it is a woman I offer her a ride to wherever (usually she will not take me up on it unless she was elderly). Now, we drive a lot less, and we need to make more kits since we are down to just granola bars at this point (If I have a new water bottle they get that, but the old ones look like they’ve leached plastic and are pretty much cluttering up the back seat).

I typically do not give to panhandlers in a downtown zone, but I will offer to pay a bus fare if asked specifically for money. My reason for this is that I know of several charities that provide food, shelter (sometimes), shower facilities, and help connecting with housing resources or medical resources for disabled people or people with addictions. I think my giving in these situations only keeps people away from good help for a little while longer. Again, I try to give a kind word, but I am selfish, so I don’t always do that

My favorite charitable giving is Child Sponsorship in which case, you do get pictures, updates, etc.

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38 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 10:52 am

That’s a great idea with the kits – esp if you have them saved in your car for whenever needed!

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39 John @ Frugal Rules December 17, 2014 at 9:13 am

Great question J! I’ve gone back and forth on this and tend to fall on the giving of something more tangible like Kalen mentioned and have bought a meal or something like that as it feels like you’re able to meet a tangible need they might have. When I lived out in SoCal there was much more opportunity for me with this as opposed to here in Omaha…or at least I thought. I was at a networking event last month and the speaker was from an organization that helps homeless vets here in the city. The number of homeless vets he said we have was just mind boggling, so this has been something more on my mind recently.

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40 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life December 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

There are SO many people asking for money each and every day here in NYC. Here are some interesting reads about some of our local NYC panhandlers…

http://nymag.com/news/features/31530/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/nyregion/beggar-seeking-money-for-marijuana-wins-a-victory-in-court.html?_r=3&ref=nyregion&

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41 Andrew@LivingRichCheaply December 17, 2014 at 9:25 am

Interesting topic. This happened to me recently and I turned the person down. I felt somewhat guilty but I don’t generally like to give money to able bodied men who are relatively young. Instead when I saw a mother with a young child, I was much more willing to give. Sure, that could of been a scam too but it’s hard to say no. I’ve also given when it was just a child asking…whether that money goes someone else I don’t know, but I can’t say no to an innocent child. It definitely is a tough question. Legitimate charities are great but like you, I’d like to see the money go directly to the person in need. Too often the charity’s administrative costs take up a bulk of the donation.

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42 C@thesingledollar December 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years, but in general, yes, I do sometimes give to panhandlers (don’t really care how they use the money either.) It’s usually a dollar or less, though, spare change. I don’t have a lot of excess cash to throw at charitable donations right now but I have two specific groups I support with small donations every year, I give a few dollars at church every week, and then I will sometimes throw $10-20 at either a specific request (gofundme and things like that) or at a major organization (Doctors without Borders etc.)

In short, I’m pretty unorganized about my giving. Something I hope can change as my own financial position stabilizes.

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43 Albert Begin December 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

I’m reluctant to give to panhandlers but have occasionally given too someone obviously in need yet too proud to ask. Sometimes I’ll suggest that they “pay if forward” if their circumstances improve.

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44 Aaron December 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

J – this is going to be a popular post :) Great question. I’m kinda with you on this – after having lived in some rougher parts of a major metropolitan city and getting asked quite frequently for money. If I give – I typically tell them that I give it to them as a gift from Jesus and bless them. This doesn’t negate the fact that I use discernment in every case. But I want to lean towards being a blessing. When/if we get to heaven, God won’t be proud of the way we’ve not let people “take advantage of us” – but how we’ve loved one another.

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45 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Amen, brotha.

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46 Becky December 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

I like to give to them in ways other than money. Recently my husband and I saw a family holding a sign. I can’t remember what it said but it was something about they needed to make it 500 more miles or so where they would stay with family. Or that could have been what my husband found out after talking to them, I can’t remember. We ended up filling up their gas tank.

We also like to help out if someone is holding a sign saying they’re hungry, especially if we are going out to eat. We grab an extra meal and give it to them.

I do agree that it shouldn’t matter what they do with the money as long as we choose to give, but it still goes through my head that if we give money, they could just go buy booze or other junk, so it steers me away from giving cash. Plus, I just don’t normally carry cash these days, just use my debit card everywhere (which is beginning to make me nervous with all these stores like Target getting hacked into and info stolen).

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47 Londie December 17, 2014 at 10:37 am

No…won’t give cash. Have had far too many ‘panhandlers’ tell me they buy booze, drugs with the $ & can make more on streets then at an 8-5 job. What I try to keep on hand are baggies of food (granola bar, canned fruit, juice carton, raisins, etc.) or $ gift certificates to McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. Something that is nearby. A good majority of the time it’s sneered at and/or refused. They usually want hard cash…that’s the currency at liquor stores & drug dens. I choose not to supplement their addictions.

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48 Melissa December 17, 2014 at 10:40 am

Hey there J! I believe is one of those time where money rears its emotional side, for sure! For me it can definitely tug on the heart strings! I just have a heart for giving (not just to the needy, but everyone)! But you are right about one thing it is Biblical, so one way or another we should do it! Several years ago, working in youth ministry, we did several projects where we ministered to homeless. We packed lunches and delivered them to several local spots in town where homeless communities stayed. To add to the project we were also fasting for the World Vision 30 Hour Famine! Talk about walking in someones shoes……try delivering food to homeless while hungry! it changed my life forever! But, I admit it is a bit of an inner struggle because I don’t like to be duped either. I do not want to be the one enabling those who struggle with addictions either. Solution? i don’t really know. I have done both give to panhandlers and charities. But one small project I have wanted to do is care packages (to keep in the car). I found an example on Pintrest http://homesweetroad.com/blessing-bags-backpack-homeless-checklist/ she calls them Blessing bags! This also includes some of the things already “commented” like gift cards for food and such. This can be done according to your budget. I think this is a great way to bless someones NEEDS “face to face”! A Mini Project perhaps???? Tis the season of giving J, I commend you for following your heart!

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49 mollyjade December 17, 2014 at 10:45 am

I regularly give to the food bank and volunteer, and usually don’t give money to panhandlers. I pass a few on my way to work everyday, and it’s not practical to give every day. If I encounter someone panhandling when I’m walking about elsewhere, I usually don’t give because I’ve had bad experiences in the past and just don’t feel safe. However, when I do give, as far as I’m concerned, it’s like any other gift, and the receiver is free to spend it however they like.

You mentioned you like direct contact charity. You should find a group of people and go volunteer to at a food bank or charity kitchen occasionally. Both really emphasize spending time with the people you’re serving. And you’ll likely feel better donating to those charities in the future because you’ll have experienced how they spend their money. Meals on Wheels is good for this, too, though it requires a commitment. And all of these are great things to do as a family when your kids are older.

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50 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

I agree – I need/want to get into the habit of doing more one-on-one interactions like this, especially as our kids grow up. We keep talking about volunteering at Thanksgiving but never do :( It’s something I need to really work on.

(And good point with passing the same people all the time in your daily routine. I typically donate once every now and then, and then just say hi or stop to chat for a few and get to know them over the months. I found out one was an incredible painter and eventually bought his paintings! Was so cool!!)

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51 mollyjade December 19, 2014 at 11:11 am

Don’t volunteer at Thanksgiving. Nonprofits get more volunteers than they can use at Christmas and Thanksgiving, and too few the rest of the year. Summer is the time when food charities need extra help since so many kids aren’t getting meals at school anymore.

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52 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Oh, good to know! And totally makes sense, yes. I’ll just have to do it more than once then ;)

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53 Erin December 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

I have a feeling that my response is going to be unpopular here… I NEVER give money to panhandlers. I’ve lived in urban areas ever since I was in college, and I know from experience that the majority of them are scammers. How do I know? For example: Every day, for the last two weeks, I’ve seen the same woman in the same subway stop, telling the same story, asking people for a dollar. I have a TON of examples like this.

I don’t assume that all panhandlers are scammers. After living in the city for a while, if you pay attention, it gets pretty easy to tell the difference between a legitimate homeless person and a scammer.

But what I WILL do is help out the actual homeless people that I’ve encountered in my work neighborhood, but I still don’t give money. I might bring food, or something like that. There’s this one guy that I see on a pretty regular basis, when I’m going home from work; he’s never asked me for money, but once he asked me for a cigarette. (Yes, I smoke; no, I’m not proud of that fact; let’s move on, shall we?) Well, I won’t give money, but I’ll give a cigarette–it’s the smoker’s code, since I’ve bummed enough of them from other people in my life. So I gave him one, and we ended up talking for a little while. I always keep an eye out for him, and if I see him, I give him a couple of smokes and a couple minutes of genuine conversation.

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54 Erin December 17, 2014 at 11:03 am

Oh, and just to add another reason I won’t give to panhandlers… I know two people who, when they went to give money to panhandlers, were mugged and beaten, either by the panhandler, or by the panhandler’s associates. Both of my friends had to go to the emergency room as a result.

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55 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

Wow. Yes, I would stop afterwards too if that happened to me – what a horrible thing to experience :( Especially when you’re trying to offer help!! I need to be more mindful of this myself, especially at night (though I rarely give money at night, usually cuz I don’t party any more now that I’m old w/ kids, haha… Quick funny story – one late night in NYC I was walking by and some guy struck up a conversation with me. Turns out he was homeless and just wanted some money, so I gave him some (probably too much – I was pretty drunk), and when I looked over all my friends were laughing at me. I asked them why because how could donating money be funny, and they said “Look down you moron!” When I looked down the guy wasn’t wearing any pants. Or underwear!!!)

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56 Emilie December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Tell your wife that we are in no position to judge someone’s worthiness when it comes to offering help. It’s a slippery slope. If I needed help, whether it was money or a just a helping hand, I wouldn’t want people to question and analyze everything I’ve done or not done to determine if I was truly worthy of assistance. If you feel compelled to give, then you should and not give a second thought to whether or not they “deserve” it. What people do is between them, their conscience and God. How we respond when someone asks for help is between us, our conscience and God. Financial this may not be the best way to handle your charitable contributions, but I think when it comes to giving, leading with your financial brain is not the way to go. If you have money to give and its part of your overall financial plan and budget, then give, without strings or conditions or becoming judge and jury on whether someone is worthy. Just give.

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57 Mrs. Budgetsaresexy December 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

It’s not about judging their worthiness. Clearly if they are standing in the street begging for money, they need some kind of help.

But it is my belief that the end game of defeating poverty is better served by donations to organizations that are committed to aiding impoverished people in the long term — i.e., places that aim to ultimately get them OUT of poverty through job training, mental health assistance, etc. Throwing a few dollars at a panhandler might make us feel good, but I think in many cases it doesn’t actually help the panhandler.

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58 Joe December 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

I usually don’t give money to panhandlers. I see panhandlers every day since we live downtown and they create a lot of problems. They create disturbance, smoke weed, and business owners has to clean up after them every morning. They also seems to hound seniors and other venerable people. I know they’re not all like that, but I don’t want to encourage more homeless people.

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59 cynthia rafler December 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

Yes you have it right. While I am not a panhandler, I am always one paycheck away from becoming one. I give $1.00 to $20 to panhandlers whenever I can, even when things are real tight. There are a lot of panhandlers in Southern California where I live, but I think there are homeless in every city, now. I feel good seeing the relief on their face and sometimes a faint smile from those who can still remember. I still have faith in humanity and maybe some are cheating, but like you said, you never see what the “charities” do with your money. Tis the season. I use to live in Kansas City, where there was a Secret Santa who use to give $100 bills to the poor on the streets. Even in recent news where someone on the East Coast had a big heart and paid off a lot of store’s layaway. While some of these people could have just been using the layaway as Santa’s storage, I am sure this person made a lot of family’s holidays. Thank you for the newsletter. Wishing you, yours, and all your readers a happy holiday, and a better financial new year.

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60 J. Money December 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Cynthia. May you and your family have a blessed one too!

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61 Amy December 17, 2014 at 11:14 am

I generally prefer to give to charities. If you donate products – food, toys, clothing, etc. – you don’t have to worry about your donation going to overhead.

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62 Sam @ Frugaling.org December 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

You’re stealing my thunder, J! Haha. I’ve been meaning to write on this very topic. Giving money to panhandlers/homeless is a wonderful thing to do in my mind. The resistance to doing so seems to be interlinked with judgment of that person’s situation. Fundamentally, who are you to judge, right? Sharing is a preschool-based moral code that shouldn’t stop when you become an adult. At 4, you’re not told to share with your neighbor*. (*If the sharee meets your criterion) It’s rough to think of someone buying drugs and/or alcohol with that money, but we live in a world without easily-affordable mental health and drug treatment programs. Helping thy neighbor through that stigma is powerful.

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63 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Well looking forward to your post then, good sir :)

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64 Kurt @ Money Counselor December 17, 2014 at 11:46 am

I generally don’t give money directly to panhandlers because I don’t know how it’ll be spent. I do give money to organizations that feed and shelter the homeless and others who are ‘down & out.’ On occasion I’ve even suggested to a panhandler who has a sign claiming he needs money for food to visit a nearby organizations I support that I happen to know is about to serve up a free lunch!

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65 Kayla @ Everything Finance December 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I don’t give to panhandlers, but I have increased my charitable giving by budgeting for it each month instead of just doing it here and there unplanned. Now I at least know I’m giving each month and how much. I hope to increase it more after I get some debt paid off.

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66 Ann December 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm

The thing that changed me is volunteering at a shelter for the homeless. I still can’t believe how ignorant I was on the subject of homelessness. I’m embarrassed. I used to give money to people but now I feel I do better by actually working with people experiencing homelessness. I do still hand over cash to people occassionally. Before I volunteered I asked different places how much money actually goes to the people. The shelter I help in 90% goes to the people. 50% are employed full-time. 50% have addiction or mental illness. Housing costs in my city are very expensive around the available jobs and section 8 funding was cut 2 years ago here. That’s what drives people out of their homes. Many have poor credit so coming up with first month and last months rent is very hard for them. If people are homeless for over a year the chances of them getting off the streets plummet. Knowing all of this opened my eyes. Never feel bad for helping people out in any way. Because most of them really appreciate it and are very grateful.

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67 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Oh man, what a great insight you get with volunteering – hoping to educate myself more too in that regard! I won’t even pretend to think I understand any of it all. Even the whole drinking/drug thing. Easy for me to say I wouldn’t partake in any of that if I were homeless, but that’s a whole other world!

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68 Ogie December 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Hi J.Money, long time reader first time commenter! We dont give cash on panhandlers but instead we give food, I even taught my daughter not to give money to anybody but if she feels a person need something give food instead. One time I gave money to a lady with a cardboard sign then realizing afterwards that the cardboard she was using was a bud light box. I felt I was duped. Ever since then I told myself never to give cash, we don’t know where the money is going after we give it out.

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69 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for commenting today Ogie :)

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70 Crystal December 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I give food to panhandlers. If I just went through a drive-through or have some granola bars or water, they get it. I don’t usually give money simply since I am usually driving late at night for pet sitting when I see them and don’t want to be the single, female target in the area. I also don’t like giving to most charities since I can’t see where my money goes. I make an exception for the animal rescue, SMART, that I foster for since I know exactly which vet gets my money to pay off bills, lol. I also spend money on my Little Bro from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program every week. The boy can eat. I find that volunteering for charities is how I like to help – I know exactly what I can be useful for and see what happens on the inside that way. :-)

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71 Shannon December 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I don’t see them that often where I live, but if I made a rare trip to a larger city, then I will see one or two. I guess I am not usually prepared to give them anything, and I certainly don’t want to stand on a busy city sidewalk opening my purse and wallet in view of everyone. I’d rather donate to a non-profit I guess.

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72 Anonymous December 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I tend to be a sucker, but not carrying cash has helped with this a lot. More than panhandlers, I am irritated by the kids that stand outside the the entrance to the grocery store or walmart and ask for donations. They aren’t doing anything to earn it, just asking for cash. And they will man both entrances, giving you no choice but to give them money or ignore them. I feel guilty and then get mad about feeling guilty. I came up with some rules to follow, which helps, but I really wish the stores would stop allowing it. The rules apply to any request for cash from someone I don’t know (this is harder with friends & family).

1. I do not make random cash donations unless I am particularly in the mood for it (which isn’t most of the time because I hate being asked for money)

2. Instead of donating $1 to dozens of charities that ask for it, I pick and choose those that I am willing to give a little more to and stick with them. I will donate to the fire department “fill the boot” but I don’t tend to donate to big organizations, since they are lax on the whole “where does the money go” question.

3. Instead of donating cash, I donate my time, services, blood, etc… You can actually see where your help goes and there’s a lot less likely to be someone’s pocket. But still beware, I know a couple of people that worked at Goodwill. It was not unusual for them to get “first option” on donations that came in. Sometimes they paid a little for them, sometimes they paid nothing. These are ideas for non-cashdonations:

* Volunteer your time with a Feeding America organization (or any other organization that will allow time in lieu of cash or fundraising)

* Donate blood (regular red-cell donation can be done every 56 days)

* Donate toiletries to a shelter (primarily women and children, but they will take ANYTHING that is for personal hygiene – lotion, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, razors, etc…)

* Donate supplies and food to an animal shelter

* Offer to help with administrative tasks for daily work or by event – flyers, pamphlets, etc…

* Offer to help with a small organization’s website, facebook, etc… or maybe they just need help getting pictures of events or animals to get on their site

* Donate backpacks and school supplies to backpacksforkids.org

* Make or buy blankets to donate to Linus’ Blankets – officers, case workers, etc… hand them out to children who lose their homes, are taken from their families, etc…

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73 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Love it! Great ideas, Anonymous – thx man! (or woman! :))

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74 CJ December 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Good morning! I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this.

Just a quick story–my husband and I went through a really rough time financially a few years back, involving a job loss, cancer, and our subdivision developer going broke so no value in our house, which we eventually lost. When our luck finally turned–new jobs, clean health report, and saving up to regain our home equity position–I felt like God was telling me that if I saw a panhandler, if I had $5 in my purse or car console, I was to give it and thank God that I was able to do so. I had a real problem with that–I went through all the arguments about how some of them make more money doing that than I do at my job, just use it to buy alcohol, etc., etc., but I felt God telling me that I was to do it anyway and that it wasn’t about them; it was about me. So I did. For several months. And I gradually felt myself becoming more thankful and less critical and less mad at the world in general for the bad luck I’d gone through. Because even at the worst of our bad luck, I never missed a meal and I had friends who cared about me, but I hadn’t always remembered to be thankful about that.

Eventually I felt the $5 mandate sort of “lift.” Maybe I learned what I was supposed to from it. I still give something almost every time, but I think the idea is to be cheerful, thankful, and kind to the rest of humanity.

Have a good day!

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75 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

What an inspiring story :) Way to get you both out of such a horrible spot!

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76 Anne @ Money Propeller December 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I live in a small town, where we don’t have pan handlers, so this doesn’t really come up for me very often at all. When it does happen, I tend to be in a big city and on vacation, watching my pennies closely.
Slightly related, I LOVE to give money/things away and it drives my spouse insane. I haven’t done my Christmas secret santa thing quite yet, on that note.

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77 Tawcan December 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I don’t usually give money to panhandlers but do donate to local charities like the Food Bank monthly. We are also sponsoring a family this Christmas as a way to give back. I also donate blood regularly. I have no problem donating money, time, or blood but I need to believe in the cause.

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78 Nic December 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I love hearing everyone’s opinions and ideas on this, it’s great to see other ideas that I hadn’t thought of to help have other options for giving without fear of $$ being spent on the wrong things.

As an additional question, what’s everyone’s feeling on repeat panhandlers (people you see EVERYTIME you frequent a place? I’m a big soccer fan and on each and every walk to the stadium (approx. 10-20 times per year) the same lady is holding a cup in the same spot. Is there a point where she’s been at it too long and hasn’t found more to do?

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79 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Great question indeed!

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80 Kim December 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I don’t give to panhandlers because I know there are two soup kitchens and a homeless shelter where on one is turned away. Thats the beauty of living in a small town. You can get to know or even work with local charities to see exactly where your donations go. I have donated to the homeless shelter and food bank. I feel like that’s a better use of money but I get wanting to give a few dollars here and there for people in dire situations. Even if it’s to buy booze, maybe thats what gets them through the night.

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81 Jason @ Islands of Investing December 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I’m a big fan of the focus on an individual vs putting a drop of money into a giant charity bucket and not knowing the impact it has. Personally, I like knowing I’ve had a positive impact on my own immediate community or environment, whether it’s ‘giving’ in the charitable sense or just being generally helpful and a positive influence.

But I don’t generally give to pan-handlers. It might just be that all the ones I see in Melbourne here give off a really awful, untrustworthy vibe. I do always feel a little bad though, because you never know the persons real story and the circumstances that have lead them to being on the street.

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82 john s. December 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I give to any of them who show a sense of humor about their situation. I once gave some money to a presumably blind man because he had his dog — presumably a guide dog — wearing the same sunglasses he was wearing.

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83 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:44 pm

That’s awesome :)

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84 Mick Lathrop December 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I use to be like your wife, I always look at people wanting money thinking they were going to spend it on something they shouldn’t. So I decided to do something about it, because I couldn’t just not give. The Bible clearly talks about giving to everyone especially those less fortunate. So me and my wife buy a 4 pack of $10 Safeway gift cards and we hand one out to every person who asks. We also give them a business card style encouragement talking about how awesome they are with a verse (these were actually wedding favors that we gave out at our wedding) and a card about the church we are apart of.

As for Charities, I’m the same as you. I don’t like it because I don’t know where my money goes. We give to a few places but only because I know the people that run them and know where the money goes. However, if you are looking for an awesome charity where you know where the money is going, you should check out Child’s Play (http://www.childsplaycharity.org/). You choose a Children’s Hospital or Domestic Violence Shelter and it will take you to their Amazon wishlist. You then buy a toy, game or book for the hospital and have it shipped straight to the hospital. I’ve donating to it since it started and often get thank you letters from the hospitals. You know where your money is going to because your picking out the gifts! And you are helping kids during difficult times.

Great post man!

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85 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Oooh yes! I love that idea!!! Great one!

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86 Kathy J December 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

HI J,
No, I don’t give actual money anymore and haven’t in years to “people on the streets”. My mother taught me many moons ago to give food items instead.

So, I will go to the store and buy some staples and drop them off to the people who have signs that say that they will work for food. I’ve also given my leftovers from dinner to people who I’ve come across on the way home.

I do donate to legitimate charities through church and friends who are involved in collecting for them.

Kathy

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87 Dividend Mantra December 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm

J$,

True story. I gave money to a panhandler one time. It was way back in 2000 and I was fresh out of high school. I was down at the university trying to get my classes in order for the upcoming fall semester. And when I got out of my car, I was immediately approached by this guy begging for food money. He said he just needed $1 to go across the street – he pointed to a McDonald’s located directly across from where my car was parked – and buy a burger. His story was compelling, I was young and naive, and so I gave him $1.

I came back to my car about an hour later after getting all my classes scheduled with an assistant (this was before everyone did this stuff online), and sure enough the same panhandler was there telling the same exact story to another guy getting out of his car.

Never again.

Just my take on it.

Best regards!

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88 nic December 18, 2014 at 10:31 am

@Dividend Mantra There’s a panhandler in Portland that does this sort of thing. I walked out of a hotel, she asked for some food or $$ because she missed the soup kitchen line…I opted not to give her money…and now I’m glad about it. I walked down to Voodoo and on my way happened to pass a line of people waiting for the soup kitchen to open.

I laughed it off and went on with my day. Around lunchtime my wife and I went to a block of food trucks and low and behold, she’s walking around still using the story and asked me AGAIN. She would even get mad at people for not giving her stuff…it was more than a little offputting to everyone around her, so no one helped her.

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89 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

@Dividend Mantra – maybe he wanted TWO hamburgers? ;) who fills up on just one? Haha

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90 LeRainDrop December 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm

No, I do not give directly to panhandlers, but I donate to many charities throughout the year. I have a few charities that are closest to my heart to which I donate the most annually (yay, Atlanta Humane Society!), but as a general matter, I essentially always say “yes” to supporting a friend’s charitable work, too — in some cases just making a monetary donation to sponsor them, and in others also walking in the walk or riding in the bike ride. I found this article in the Atlantic called “Should You Give Money to Homeless People?” to be very interesting: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/03/should-you-give-money-to-homeless-people/72820/

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91 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Thanks LeRainDrop – will check it out (and awesome name :))

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92 Yana December 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

It’s a sad and nearly everyday thing to see the homeless and panhandlers. This includes people in wheelchairs and one today with a wheelchair and a cardboard sign in his mouth while he was rolling along. Our town seems to discourage direct charitable giving and always admonishes us to give money to charities and let them help people. I disagree wholeheartedly, though I like the work the Salvation Army does and one of the local churches that provides a level of medical care as well, because plenty of people cannot get medical care at all. To get help from agencies, you have to qualify and the agency decides what to give and sometimes, what you need. When it is comfortable and safe to give to those seeking help, we do (I converted my husband, who used to say that they could also get a job). It is not my concern whether someone with so little might buy alcohol or cigarettes, because if that is what they want, they should certainly have it. I am not the morality police or someone who resents others getting a bit of enjoyment out of such a life. I feel for them and know that I could be on their end instead of where I am, and I can only be grateful that I am able to help to a small extent. On the other hand, I have very little mercy for those who resent the poor.

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93 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Agreed – I’d probably drink too if I were in their position. Not that I could even pretend to know what that would feel like!

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94 GG @ Green Girls Don't Get Fat December 17, 2014 at 4:36 pm

We don’t give a lot of money to homeless people, but we do bring them food and talk with them. There are plenty of resources in this area for them to meet their basic day to day survival needs, but I’m guessing they don’t have a lot of people who are willing to hang out with them and show them love. On this topic, I highly recommend a great book by Jen Hatmaker called “7”.

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95 Shannon @ Financially Blonde December 17, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I am one of those people who never gives to panhandlers, but I will give to street performers, even bad ones. I don’t have problems giving people money directly, but I kind of feel like you have to work for it. It’s fine if you can’t get a job and you are down on your luck, but rather than just sit there, you should sing or perform or something. It makes me feel better about supporting you.

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96 Dr. Sheba December 17, 2014 at 10:27 pm

Do I give money to the homeless and/or panhandlers? Usually, no. I have a “trust no one” mentality when it comes to seeing people with those signs at the stoplights or when I get off of the highway. Depending on my mood, I may share a dollar or two. Basically, it depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

Do I have any of my own rules for donating to charity? Currently, I don’t donate to charity. Not because I don’t want to, but I have see exactly where my money is going. I’d rather give money to the local baseball team standing outside of Walmart.

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97 Alyssa December 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I give when I feel like it, or am able to – but I’m writing because I came across an unusual request, which I’ve never seen before in LA (or anywhere for that matter) and we have a lot of panhandlers here. A lady by a freeway exit asks for your bottles and cans. She’s there every weekday morning, so I’ve taken to bringing my recycling to her once or twice a week. She doesn’t refuse other gifts or donations, as sometimes I’ve offered money or food, or even full bottles of whatever drink I have in the car, but all she asks for is your empties. I wonder how much she makes in a week?

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98 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Interesting one! I’d give her my recycles too in that case – she’s a hustler! :)

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99 Steve December 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Giving to ‘homeless’ usually ends up paying for alcohol and enables them to stay on the streets to not get the real help they need. Either that or they are just scamming you. Give to a community food bank instead. That’s my opinion.

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100 JZ December 18, 2014 at 1:11 am

I had a boss once (who has dedicated her life to providing services for children and families in need and has founded several nonprofits) who gave me a valuable insight on giving to panhandlers.

She said that if someone is willing to essentially shame themselves in public by asking for money they probably really need it.

I have no problem giving my money away to those who need it. For me, that’s one of the biggest reasons to pursue financial independence. Even having FIRE as an option is proof that I have been given many advantages/opportunities/good fortune and I can think of no better way to spend my life than sharing that good fortune with others.

P.S. Happy Holidays J. Money!

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101 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm

You too JZ :)

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102 Ben Luthi December 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

My dad taught me that it’s not up for him to decide how they use the money, but it is up to him to give them the opportunity to choose. The Christian in me also poses the question, “Aren’t we all beggars? Don’t we all ask for forgiveness from God every single day, only to turn around and make the same mistakes over and over again?” Yet we still ask, and God still gives.

There may be “better” ways to give than just handing out cash, like giving a McDonald’s gift card or buying them food, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong by wanting to help. I have no problem with what you’re doing.

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103 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm

“Aren’t we all beggars? Don’t we all ask for forgiveness from God every single day, only to turn around and make the same mistakes over and over again?”

How true that is, brother. How true that is.

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104 EL December 18, 2014 at 10:28 am

They say the more you give the more you shall receive. Hopefully you will get blessings; I just don’t expect it because I gave. I give to both panhandlers and charities when I can. I witness many people who need help and it’s not up to us to judge. I give to charities that have small % of donations going to operational expenses and salaries. That way you know it’s going towards the aid.

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105 Jaycie V December 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Have you heard of Kiva? It’s more of a loaning program than a charity, but still gives you the chance to help people who are in need. They post pictures and stories of people all over the world who need money to start a business, buy livestock, repair their vehicles, etc.. You make a loan (and an optional donation to Kiva’s overhead), and the person pays you back over a period of time. The money goes back into your account and you can loan it again. I love it!

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106 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Yup! I’ve had $500 recycling there for years now – GREAT organization indeed. And an awesome way to support entrepreneurship too :)

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107 Connie @ Savvy With Saving December 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I have, if I felt emotionally moved by their story in some way. But in most cases, I avoid giving to panhandlers directly and donate money or time to charitable organizations instead. This is mostly because I don’t know if that person is telling the truth or what they’re really doing with money but also because the few dollars I give to them will only give them temporary relief, like food and drink, and then they’re back to panhandling. They need assistance that will help them in the long term, which is why I like to work with charities instead.

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108 Yana December 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I used to think that, too, Connie – that I could give and do so little when people have continuing needs. Chatting with some homeless people changed my mind. Even what little I can do means something significant to them. Any time a hungry person can get some food matters. If charities helped even close to enough, there would not be such numerous and constant needs in our faces every day.

Jaycie, I was excited and made a couple of loans through Kiva, but quit because I found out they charge interest on the loans. Then I got excited about Novica and made loans there, and found out one has to pay to collect when the loan is paid back. It often seems to me that the poor can be exploited, and many times those “legit” people/agencies/professionals helping them are recipients of a “trickle-up” economy – they themselves profit handsomely from depicting a scenario of helping the poor, disabled, etc.

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109 Richard Anthony December 18, 2014 at 9:53 pm

J$, what a soul-searching post. Since you’ve mentioned the Bible several times and have asked for comment, I’m obliged to contribute this passage from Matthew 5: 42:

“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

Bottom line, the Lord says to give to whomever asks you. But I don’t always do that.

On one freezing night in NYC as I hurried down Madison Ave. I was accosted by a young man who asked for money “For a bowl of soup, man–it’s so cold . . .” I waved him off and kept walking. But after I trekked half a block, guilt set in. It was icy, bone-chilling cold, and I turned around to look for him. He was gone. He must’ve turned the corner. I backtracked hoping to find him, knowing that if I didn’t, the remorse would nag me forever. When I got to the corner, I was relieved to see him and shouted, “Hey!” He turned as I approached. “How much is a bowl of soup?” I yelled. Without a blink he hollered back, “Three dollars!” Ouch. I was expecting a buck. As I handed him the money I felt that maybe I was being played, but better to err on the safe side. I still feel good that I gave.

Now my turn to ask something of you. As you may know, I just published a book of sayings: http://www.amazon.com/Would-You-Mind-Repeating-That/dp/0989812405 In it you’ll find 2 entries pertinent to your post under the heading of ‘Generosity’–“God bless the cheerful giver,” and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In that spirit I ask, since today and tomorrow are the last days that Amazon will guarantee delivery of my book in time for stocking stuffing, will you please tell your friends about it? The book may make some people happy, which will make me happy. Many thanks–and Happy Holidays!:)

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110 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 2:00 pm

1) I do that same thing at least 5 times a year – the guilt always gets me to go back!

2) Done. Shared on Twitter – hope it helps :)

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111 Deasy Noel December 18, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I don’t give panhandlers money. With charities, I try to volunteer my time more than give money.

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112 David of the Debt Free Guys December 18, 2014 at 10:33 pm

My question is do you know that the charities aren’t lying? How often do you hear about charities that only give 10, 15 or 20 percent to those they say they are helping. Instead it pads some CEOs 6 figure salary and their group of yes women and men. We find charities that give at least 85% back to the groups they say they are helping and try to give our time as well. ProjectAngelHeart.com is one of these if you are in the Denver area.

My other thought is, give willingly and with a good heart and then leave it up to the person who you gave to to decide what should be done with the money. We cannot judge them by their appearance if we don’t wan the same to be done of us.

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113 Mel December 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm

I think the thing that happened at FinCon that made me proudest to be a pf blogger was the group that asked if they could take the extra boxed lunches that one day and give them to the homeless people around the hotel. There were so many there it was crazy. Actually giving food is my favorite way to help people who claim to be hungry.

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114 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

YES! Was so awesome seeing everyone merge all the leftover goodies in the boxes and seeing them all stacked up at the end :) Brilliant idea as I was personally going to throw away a perfectly good cookie and chips anyways!

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115 Lance @ HWI December 19, 2014 at 10:56 am

All giving is good. Our worse financial situation is often better than most. I have stopped giving to panhandlers after being told to stop by the local homeless shelter fundraiser. This lady is a saint who made her money and now devotes all her time to the homeless and built a clinic next to the homeless shelter. She could be off living any type of wealthy life and gives it all to people in need. We now give our donations straight to her group. I had a girl friend who would buy food each time we went to a store and give it to those standing on the corner with signs. Some said thanks and most said, “I want cash” even though the sign said, “will work for food.” It’s a hard situation to be in. At the end of the day it’s a personal call, but I think we can always give more than we do. Not everyone has opportunity in life.

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116 Jennifer G December 19, 2014 at 11:59 am

I don’t get into the city very often, and this post reminded me that I haven’t seen any “panhandlers” lately when I have gone in. So I did a little research. In our fair city (the one nearest my home), they are trying pass a city ordinance that would make it a ticketable (is that a word?) offense to GIVE to a panhandler. I understand that having people begging for money all over the place probably detracts from our tourism industry, but what a horrid place to live where it becomes illegal to help our fellow man. Shame on you, local government.

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117 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Damn. I’d be fined more money than I was giving :(

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118 Becky @ RunFunDone December 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I rarely give money to panhandlers, and regularly give to a charity that I believe in. I also volunteer at the charity, so I actually DO get to see where the money goes.

I agree with your wife on this one.

With panhandlers, if they approach me as I’m going into a business, I might buy them some food as I am buying food for myself, and then give it to them as I leave. On rare occasions, I give cash to women. As a woman, I find it TERRIFYING when men approach me and ask for cash. There’s no way I’d pull out my wallet for them.

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119 Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead December 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I occasionally give a bit, but more often I let them know I can refer them to free medical care and also offer to go buy them food directly. I bought a sandwich, chips, and water for a lady a while back and when I walked back over to her she was surprised I came back with the food I promised.

I do prefer to give to charities, but try to keep local or sponsor things that friends are doing (raising money for clean water in Africa, cancer research, etc., not for school supplies). I get some extra enjoyment for my money out of supporting them in their pursuits.

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120 Steve Adcock December 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Heck no, I have never given any money to beggers and probably will never give to beggers. Begging isn’t helping them to improve their lives and become productive members of society. In fact, it is prolonging their trouble, and people who give to them are, unfortunately, helping.

The begging in my area is getting so bad that the police department is begging the public to stop giving money to beggers because their presence in an area usually increases the crime rate, plain and simple. The more money people give, the longer they stay – and the crime rate follows.

I understand that it might make people feeeeeel better about themselves if they give money to beggers, but the social repercussions, in my humble opinion, isn’t nearly worth the temporary joy.

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121 J. Money December 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I don’t know if I agree all the way with that, but I’m also no expert and can’t give an educated answer as to why ;) If certain areas were being jacked up with crime rates and other things (that I knew about beforehand) I probably wouldn’t give to those in that area, but I still would in others. I can easily say I would just donate to a charity instead, but even if that’s what I wanted to do the odds I’d remember later would be slim and then I’d be giving $0.00 in the end. Whereas by being asked on the spot opens up an immediate opportunity to help right away which is also why I tend to say yes more.

But this is exactly why I like blogging about this sort of thing – there are so many factors and opinions that it’s incredibly interesting (and helpful!) to read about.

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122 Anna December 21, 2014 at 2:19 pm

When I was 15 and sitting a a macdonalds after a softball game, a guy came in and asked if I had any spare change so he could get a burger. I gave him my change and he walked straight out the door without buying anything. I still give money to people who are asking for it but I don’t often carry a ton of cash with me. So after talking with my husband we decided to do gift cards to Starbucks and other place to eat. We also help when there is a need for someone we know in our community. Despite my caution when giving to people the bible still calls us to give.

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123 Martha @ Marty Thoughts on Life and Money December 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Short answer is yes I do. I went through a really rough time a few years ago! I time I call my “semi homeless period” it was rough but with the help of nice people around me I made it through. Yes its true that people will may use the money you give them for the wrong reasons but it shouldn’t stop you from giving just to help out the people who need that help to change their lives.

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124 Tahitibean December 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

While I don’t make it a habit to give $ to panhandlers, I will always give food and or water if I have it at the time. Whenever I travel for work, I usually run across homeless while I am walking around the city and I will always get a to-go bag so I can pass along my leftovers. (I recently traveled for work, and stayed where they had those little mini-fridges with some complimentary beverages and snacks and I was right next to a missionary, so I grabbed what I could and passed out to those on the sidewalk). I do also on occasion grab a doggie treat at my local bank, as I always see the same gentleman and his dog on my walk home. He appreciates it and I think Jack does too – that’s the doggie :)

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125 J. Money December 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm

You have a kind heart :)

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126 Kim @ Money Under the Cushions December 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

J$ this is an interesting discussion. I have given to panhandlers before and I do have my own rules. Two things go through my head each time I consider. First, my mom’s voice. She used to tell me how she would never give to panhandlers because all they wanted was to buy some liquor and she got burned each time she did. The second voice is not attached to a specific person because I don’t remember who said it, bit the person said not to worry about what the person or organization does with the money because you can’t control that. Be content with your intent. Both have really stuck with me and they conflict.

I find that when I give to charities I use the “don’t worry about where it goes,” rule, because I too would love to know exactly how my donation was used. With panhandlers I will not give money, but I will buy food (or give a coat or something). I have done this numerous times. I will never forget when I was in Santa Monica and a man who was living next to an outdoor fountain – all his belongings were with him – asked me for 65 cents to buy some food. I told him that I did not have it, but if he was hungry I’d by buy him a meal. He asked me if I was serious. I pointed to the McDonalds and told him we could go there. He jumped up and we walked together. He kept thanking me and said his mouth was watering just thinking about it. We entered and I asked him what he wanted. He said whatever I wanted to get him. I told him it was his meal and to order what he wanted. After purchasing, he asked if I would sit with him for a minute. We chatted for about 15 minute. We talked about the weather, law and the stock market. I got the feeling that his “vice” probably led him to losing everything.

Anyhoo, I will never forget that experience because he put a face on the homeless for me. In all of the times I have done this I have never been sorry and it makes me want to be a better person and do more.

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127 J. Money December 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

What a heartwarming story!! I love that he asked for you to sit with him for a bit and that you did it :) It’s so easy to just ignore people out there – whether homeless or not – so anytime we can stop for a few and talk one-on-one with people def. puts things in better perspective. And I have to learn to do more of that myself.

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128 Krismarie December 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

We have a tremendous homeless problem in San Diego. We also have a tremendous scammer problem as well, people living in upscale communities, taking taxis to where they pan handle instead of actual work. We’ve also had people attacked because the ‘homeless’ person didn’t feel like they’d received enough, and yes,I’ve had food/water thrown back in my face because it’s not cash. So no, I don’t except through legit charities. But my 21 year old son will go out of his way to give to anyone claiming to be a veteran (he’s in the Army).

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129 J. Money December 29, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Man… you’d think those scammers could make a lot more money putting their skills to work differently, eh? It’s gotta be something in the thrill of it that keeps them going… Kinda like hackers who mess $hit up on purpose (and for no $$) when they can easy bank a ton harnessing their skills more productively… Sad sad world sometimes.

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130 Lj January 16, 2015 at 1:36 am

No. I don’t give money to panhandlers, ever. I used to. A few years ago I had a lady come up to me in the grocery store parking lot, looked well put-together, very humble and asked me if by any chance I had $10 for gas. She said she went to pay for groceries, realized she’d mistakenly left her wallet at home, and when she got back to the car, she also saw that her gas tank was nearly empty. (I can’t remember the exact story, but it was something along those lines). She seemed very apologetic and embarrassed that she had to ask for gas money. I believed her, and gave her $10 to help her get home. Hey, I’ve gone out without my wallet before, too.

Two weeks later I was at dinner with friends on the same block, and parked in the grocery lot. My friend and I were walking back to our cars, and the Same lady comes up to us with the same story. My friend gave her a simple “Sorry, No.” and shook her head, saying that this lady is there pretty often. (Friend lives a few blocks away). I was both surprised and hurt. Like, super hurt. Apparently the lady is a junkie. I felt so taken advantage of that someone would prey on other people’s kindness to get a fix. We had a new baby and crappy insurance at the time, too, so I could have totally done better things with that money than support her drug habit.

Anyway, since that day I won’t give anything to panhandlers.

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131 J. Money January 31, 2015 at 8:36 pm

That’s really unfortunate :( She screwed it up for all others out there who might be more legit… I’d be pissed too though.

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132 Brian @ Debtless in Texas February 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

I worked for a beer distributor (not as awesome as it sounds) and unfortunately, I would see these folks who were “down on their luck” panhandling take their hard earned proceeds and buy 32 ounce cans of beer.

I would also see them get picked up and dropped off in the early morning/late hours. I have even gone as far as to give them some extra food and I was told “money, ***hole, I want money!” So call me cynical and jaded but I never give to panhandlers and advise others not to as well. I saw way too many people buying alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets with them and I won’t be helping support their lifestyle.

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133 J. Money February 23, 2015 at 7:45 am

Ouch! I’d be more reticent to give after being called an a-hold too, that’s messed up :(

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134 Carla April 26, 2015 at 4:04 pm

I absolutely love this!!! What a great challenge! I have a question though. My daughter has a desire to take the homeless out to a meal. Like meet up at nearest fast food place. She’s asked my permission to send out letters asking for donations to help in this endeavor. My heart is screaming yes. But is that a good idea to solicit money like that??

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135 J. Money April 27, 2015 at 11:55 am

I think anytime you’re trying to do good – and ESPECIALLY when your heart is screaming (I like that!) – you should follow it and see how far it goes :) That being said, I’d probably have your daughter write up the letters or pass them around or whatever since she’s the one super excited about it, and also that she can get away with a lot more than an adult, haha… Plus it’s much more cuter and will get more donations just on the fact she’s a young (I’m guessing?) daughter!

The only thing I’d be mainly concerned about is her safety while doing all of this. Homeless or not, there are some crazies in the world so do keep that at the top of the process as I’m sure you’re already gonna do. But other than that, set her loose and see how much good she can do in this world of ours!! Maybe you can match whatever she raises to help sweeten the pot/motivation?? Or have her reach out to local companies/restaurants to match?

Please keep me updated :)

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136 James March 13, 2016 at 6:47 am

I work at a downtown church in the Midwest and we get people coming for various kinds of help all the time. When I’m sitting with the person asking for help, I try to find a reason to say ‘yes’ to them instead of saying ‘no.’ I try to see people as people and not problems. I also trust and verify. If someone wants a bus ticket to another city and is trying to get home, I ask who they are going to see in that next city and if I can call that person. Once a guy came asking for the bus ticket and I called his fiance and she told me that he was not welcome at her house and that she had the money to buy him a bus ticket, but wouldn’t do it for a variety of very valid reasons. I told him that if his fiance wouldn’t bring him home, I wasn’t going to send him to her door. I gave him a sandwich and a bus token to get to the shelter.

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137 J. Money March 15, 2016 at 7:04 am

Oh wow, I wouldn’t have even thought to place a call like that. Thanks for chiming in!

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