Monday Mitzvah – Should I give to a pan handler?

It’s really unfortunate that some issues seem to be perpetual in nature.  A colleague reminded me last week about a speech I had given at Toastmasters with suggestions of how to address the issue of giving to a pan handler. I’d suggested getting healthy snacks like granola bars or nuts to keep in your car so you can give them out when stopped at a corner and approached.

In 2009, I posted about this subject after reading some great ideas suggested by the Portland Rescue Mission, a local Portland homeless shelter. Below I am listing these ideas once again. I think the reminder is always helpful.

As panhandlers approach you this spring 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.

This week try one of these suggestions and let me know how it goes.