POLL: Do you ever give money to panhandlers? Here's my story why I don't


Every large (and many small) cities have them - people on the streets, asking for money. They never tell you they’re after drugs or booze, but that concern is always there.

It’s tempting to give a few dollars. I recall the words of Jesus, “when I was hungry, you gave me no food.”

An article ran in today’s Oregonian newspaper - “The Faces of Meth.” It interviewed six former meth addicts (most of whom had only gotten clean because they had been in prison). One of these, James Hibbs, was quoted as saying, “To be honest, it’s so easy to be homeless, living in Portland. It was easy to get money. People are so nice. You can just sit on a corner for five minutes and make $20, and there you go, you had your next bag of dope.

This reminded me of an experience of my own a few years ago. I had jury duty and was downtown at an early hour. I was walking from the light-rail platform to the courthouse, looking for someplace to get breakfast along the way.

I was approached by an older gentleman, dressed in a suit and tie, but the clothes were shabby. He asked me for money - “money for food.” I told him I was sorry; I couldn’t help him.

A block later I came across a fast food place. I went in and ordered two breakfast sandwiches - one for me and one for that guy. As I was waiting for my order, the gentleman came in and ordered coffee. He then went to the condiment station and started dumping in packets of of sugar - five packs at a time. I know why - some drugs cause sugar craving. He then noticed me standing nearby (not knowing I had ordered him food) and recognized me, and started mumbling about “stuck up white boy (he was black) that don’t care nothin’ about people on the street.”

The food came up, and I reached into the bag and offered the sandwich. His immediate reply was, “I’ll take two dollars” (the exact price of the food).

“I’m not offering you two dollars. I’m offering you breakfast. You said “money for food.” Well, here is food.”

“Well, I’m not hungry right now, and us on the street, we don’t have refrigerators or any way for food to keep. So I’ll take two dollars.”

“I’m not offering you money. I’m offering you food. Do you want it or not?”

And he said no. And I turned and left. And I promised myself I would never give money to panhandlers. I know where my money would have gone had I given him any. Over the years, I have broken that promise a couple of times, when it just “felt right” - maybe that was the Holy Spirit. Maybe I just helped buy another bag of dope.

How about you? Do you give money to panhandlers? Do you have a story to tell?


I’ve had experiences with panhandlers. On one of the few occasions where I offered money was because I felt pressured. I was in my car and she came up to my window. I arrived at the grocery store, a woman approached me, and gave me a whole story about how she was trying to collect money so she could stay somewhere with her mother that night.

I had cash so I gave a couple of bucks to the woman. I felt taken right away because once I got into the store I was informed by someone inside (who was on the phone with the police) that there was a group of individuals targeting people coming in and out of the store asking for money. I always pray for the person, especially if they have an animal. I feel more comfortable giving money to certain organizations or food to the individual.


I put “never give money”, but that’s only half-true. I try to always carry around Subway gift cards to give to people who might need it. That’s a type of money, albeit money that can only be used for one purpose. :slight_smile: There have also been times where I’ve done what you’ve done, and bought food directly for someone, and other times when I’ve met someone panhandling in front of grocery stores and bought them toiletries or other needed supplies.

Your story makes me sad. I can safely say I haven’t encountered anyone yet that has turned down food or Subway card. They’ve all seemed genuinely grateful. While that doesn’t necessarily mean none of them are just trying to get drug money, it’s a comfort.

I absolutely hate it when people take advantage of others’ kindness like this, because it makes it that much harder for people who DO need the help to get it. I really wish I could feel comfortable giving a few dollars to someone, because if they were really homeless that would be really helpful not just for food, but also for things like getting the occasional motel room for showers and a good night’s sleep.

Maybe it would be better if I gave money, and have what they do with it be between them and God? I don’t know.


Neither never nor often; rarely.


As I was going into McDonald’s for coffee with friends after Mass, I saw a man rummaging through the garbage pail in the parking lot. I gave him $5.00 for food, and he DID go into the McDonalds, buy a small bag of food, and left.

It seems that we should be addressing their mental confusion and the terrible conditions they were brought up in? Many of them did not know love and were brought up with much abuse. I heard an excellent talk given by a lady who is a Catholic social worker and does her best in those circumstances.

I also have a dear friend who visits people in prison, and who mentors three teen girls who were brought up without proper teaching about morals. (they are not in prison). She is now mentoring them and has even brought them to be present at a Mass.

Wouldn’t it help if all of us can do little things that we are capable of?


I had a similar experience. I was in line at a Wendy’s. Ahead of me was a young girl and an old woman (grandmother, I presume). The girl ordered a kid’s meal, and asked the older woman if she could have cheese on her hamburger - it was maybe 10 or 15 cents extra. The older woman reluctantly said no - this was clearly a hardship. The order was totaled, and I stepped up and asked to be allowed to pay the bill. I gave the cashier $5, which was more than the total due. There was a dollar and a bit of change refund, and the cashier was clearly confused as to who should receive the change. He looked at me, and I turned my head and nodded to the old woman, and he gave her the change. The woman then thanked me, and they left the store.

Had the girl not asked for cheese, I would have thought nothing of it. It was a grandmother buying lunch for a child - just another customer at Wendy’s. It would have never occurred to me to pay for their meal (and donate the change) if the girl had not asked for the simple addition of cheese to her hamburger. My only regret is that she did not get the cheese.


That’s a good idea. I do not give money to panhandlers but often will buy food directly for them.


The amount of exposure to panhandling may not be as great for me as for others who are in larger cities, I am not approached very often but I do try to respond with a small amount to everyone. I am saying to that person that I want to help you even if it is not very much your life is important to me. I can not stand myself if I don’t do something.


It absolutely does not matter what they do with it after**** you gave the money, it thats on them, and the blessing is on you.


My city (Wichita, KS) has seen quite an uptick in panhandlers the last decade or so. Some of them “work” the Walgreen’s, Quik Trip, Dillon’s etc. Others have a certain street corner or just are here and there. I’ve been asked for money and learned the standard stories - their car ran out of gas and they need bus money to get back to (wherever), and so on.

I hate that I feel pretty cynical about it these days. I’d gladly help an honest person but I don’t want to enable a scammer. I’m on disability myself, though again I wouldn’t begrudge the money if it were truly needed and used wisely. Add to all that the fact that as a woman alone on my errands most of the time, and many of the panhandlers being male, I’m just wary of that for more reasons than just the fear of being cheated out of a dollar.

I’ve been known to make store managers aware of panhandlers “working” their parking lots, and the guy who works the corner near where I live I’ve talked to the police about by phone, and thought of talking to the community officer - we have a homeless outreach unit - to see if they could find out if he’s someone who really needs help or what. I live in a neighborhood that’s near several Department of Corrections facilities and also drug/alcohol rehabs. If drugs can make their way into prisons, it stands to reason that some of these outpatient or parolee folks might be sneaking a fix. It’s all sad. I have to overcome my anger/annoyance and pray for them, I guess. :frowning:


I learned from my grandmother not to give money to panhandlers, instead give them food, clothing or talk to them to see what they need. At this point I have bought a few meals for panhandlers on the streets or offered them to help in another way. Usually if they are in real need they are very happy to receive food or any help. If they get upset then is definitely that they want the $ for drugs or alcohol. I remember once seeing a female panhandler everyday on my way to work with a sign that said she was a mother that had to run away from her house due to domestic violence. I decided to stop and chat to her and she indeed seemed to be in need so I offered her to buy her a supermarket gift card so she could get some food and talked to her about the St Vincent dear Paul society. She thought that because she was not catholic the church would not help her and I told her that no, that they would her. She was very happy with the gift card and very happy to learn about St Vincent de Paul. She headed to the church (that it was close by) to talk to them to get help. Sometimes if you talk to them a little you can really figure out of the need is real and help them a little extra by telling them where to go for help.


Exactly. Our Blessed Lord died for **all **humanity and yet there are those who have rebuked Him.

God Bless and Peace to all.


Just the other day I watched a video on Youtube. I believe the title was something like “what happens when you give a panhandler $100”. A young man goes up to a man with a hand made sign that says something about needing money for necessities. He gives the man $100 and the man says thanks “you have brought me to tears”. It’s kind of a set-up because he then follows the man to see where he goes. He clearly walks into a store that has a large “liquor” sign on the front. The panhandler goes in and comes out with bags and then heads to the park. He comes upon a small family and gives them milk and bread. He goes to another person and gives them it looks like slim jims or something.

The man who gave the money catches up with the panhandler and tells him he had been following him and was suprised at what he did with the money and gave him another $100.

Kind of builds my faith in people.

Now I don’t always give to panhandlers but this did open my eyes.


I try to avoid giving money, but I make exceptions. One exception I make, on occasion, if for a very elderly man, very thin, blind from diabetes, mostly deaf, and missing half of his foot, very thin. I don´t believe he would use it for drugs.

Otherwise, I find that excellent advice, better, where possible, to give “in kind” than cash.


I’ve had a LOT of negative experiences with cash. To me, it DOES matter what they use it for. Now, while I can´t be held 100% responsible for that, I try now to be more selective who I give to on the street and HOW.

I care that I give someone money, and instead of it going to someone with a legitimate need, it gets used for drugs! ** It means that someone else with a real need, went without help, that my money went to a hustler instead of the real deal! **

Sometimes, I will split my sandwich with someone, and sometimes I give cash, as I say, I am more selective, now.

We had some people who had these tremendous sores, and I was absolutely convinced they weren´t faking it. Then later, I saw an article on Yahoo Mexico about this new drug which was being nicknamed the people’s heroine! This drug gave sores EXACTLY like that! So, I believe I had been duped!

Some people here, for drugs, have been known to put tourniquets on their legs, to make them swell up, cut them up a bit, pour a purple liquid into them, to make them look more pathetic.

I tried offering to take, believe it was 4 different people, to a clinic for treatment. ALL FOUR refused.

I also had some admit to using drugs, and I offered to take them to a shelter to get them off the street. Again, ALL of them refused, only wanted cash.

I´ve given people food, who were very thin, and despite their thinness, would leave the food, say they weren´t hungry.

Sometimes, being very thin can also be a sign of drugs.

One can sometimes tell if someone is on drugs by also looking at their eyes.

I’ve given people cash, in the past, had one use it for a party, instead of for his daughter´s school uniform. I had another time, someone asked for money for a crutch/cane…no crutch/cane.

I’ve heard of cases where people would take food, later throw it on the ground.

We’ve had people here who have also faked blindness. We had one guy who would also fake having only one leg, be later seen walking around!

There are some cases where the panhandlers have some kind of treatable condition but will refuse treatment in order to get more cash, not have to work.

We have some beggars here who are also REALLY obese.

I tried, for a time, to help street people, gave up, throwing up my hands, basically.

We had one church here, which actually enlarged an article from the newspaper´s security section which said NOT to give the homeless people money.

We have had some camped outside churches here. Many have addictions to alcohol or drugs. That´s often why some are there.

If you give those people money, you are not only not helping but making matters worse!


I saw two panhandlers at a busy intersection on December 23. I noticed that they were dressed too well for the part; with nice Carhartt winter clothing. An hour later I stopped at a nearby grocery store and there the two men were, buying twelve packs of beer. I wondered if those who gave them the money knew that it was going for beer. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I wasn’t going to judge them for having a few beers before Christmas, something many people do.


A 12-pack of beer (economy size)? DANG! If it were my money, I’d be upset that they only wanted it to get drunk when people go without food! That’s not right!

If they need it for beer, especially a 12-pack, they aren´t too needy. I go more for people who need it for living expenses, food, for instance, medication, basics, not luxury items, especially not alcohol, in bulk!


I had times I didn´t even have money for a stamp, and went some days without eating, didn´t ask for help! Gosh!

When I did, I wouldn´t have misused it, bought a 12-pack of beer!

To me, when I give people money, it’s with the understanding it will go for NEEDS not wants, generally speaking.


Also, another thing I´ve come to look at is whether the person is able bodied.

I try to give more to people who aren´t.


I only give money when I see a panhandler. :wink: Up until recently we lived in the suburban part of a large European city, and in our neighborhood there was small forest. There were about four or five people who lived in flimsy tents there. They were all dressed in rags to protect against the cold (it was pretty cold during the winter) and they always hung around to the nearby grocery store. They never asked for money, they just spent their day there. One day I saw that one of them was missing. When I asked the others what happened to him, they said he was taken to the hospital with frostbites. He came back when he was released. Anyhow, long story short, every time we went there, we gave a dollar or two to them. What they did with it was not our concern. We could not just pass by without it. :shrug:

By the way, I am a heartless, evil atheist, who like to eat babies for breakfast.

Happy New Year to you all.

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