I recently received a tweet from Goodness Magazine a brand new Portland magazine. Their mission: To showcase the many positive accomplishments of those from our community; to use media and each issue of Goodness to create a sense of hopefulness, not helplessness; to preserve the art of storytelling and illuminate the everyday compassion we have for one another. Their magazine provides wonderful uplifting stories as well as concrete ideas for ways you can feel empowered.
The tweet asked, Should I give money to a pan handler? I have often wondered this myself and have not been consistent about an answer. Sometimes I give and sometimes I don’t. The second tweet offered information produced by the Portland Rescue Mission, a local homeless shelter. I have excerpted some of the main ideas here. My favorite suggestions were from number five. I heard a story a few years ago about a businessman in NYC who buys loads of gloves and gives them out all winter long to the homeless men and women he sees on the way to work each day.
As panhandlers approach you this winter perhaps you will feel better equipped with this list of proactive ideas.
1. Anticipate the opportunity and be prepared.
2. Smile and actually say hello. Go out of your way to approach rather than avoid them. Acknowledging the person shows respect. It gives dignity.
3. Engage the person. Start a conversation. Take time to listen.
4. Don’t give money. Ask what their greatest need is. If money, what will they do with it? Think creatively about how to help. In most cases, meeting the actual immediate need for food or clothing is best.
5. Offer an alternative. Keep care packages with you that include socks, gloves, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, bottled water, healthy food items: like granola bars or gift certificates for food. If you live in Portland, you can print out meal vouchers from the Portland Rescue Mission.
6. Carry public transportation tickets and encourage them to get to shelter for food, cover and other immediate needs.