I Like Panhandlers

Why are the homeless and panhandlers so feared?  I like them.  They make me a touch anxious like anyone else and I used to be afraid to make eye contact, but you’ll really make your life a lot easier if you just hand them some cash or food.  Homeslessness is not a “them” problem, it’s an “us” problem.  It’s a fissure inside our imperfect society.

There’s legislation being passed to keep panhandlers off city streets.  There are reports of “organized scams” of the people asking for your cash off the interstate exits. Homeless

Why are people scared they’ll spend it all on booze?  I don’t drink and I don’t really care if they do.  How many of you out there don’t self-medicate with alcohol?

Many d0wntowns have been trying revitalize their image… Here’s a disappointing quote I found about the prevalence of panhandlers — “No one likes to see destitute people in the city center. No one likes to walk down the street and be asked for change,”   USA Today

I learned some years ago after studying a lot about the poor in our area and in our country, that the problem with people who are poor or begging is rarely due to lack of education or lack of motivation or lack of hard work.   In the last few years I decided then to start giving a dollar to the people on the off-ramps begging for money.  If you read the book Nickeled and Dimed you’ll probably get a perspective you don’t have yet if you don’t try to give when you can.  “Give to everyone who asks.” (Luke 6:30)

Most local Indy community centers like Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center and Shepherd Community Center do not have facilities for the homeless to go and the popular Wheeler Mission in town has “100% occupancy”.  (Which I also think is kind of like over-crowding in jails.  Because I think the shelters will take on homeless despite no beds being available.)  There is also a local group called The Pour House and they commit themselves to personally get to know as many homeless as possible.

To help reduce the number of people needing to panhandle make sure to support all these local urban poor charities — Wheeler MissionShepherd, Mary Rigg, The Pour House.  The recent economy has been tough on all of us but believe it or not those who struggle daily to make ends meet suffer even more than we do in these economic times.

I had this blog entirely written and today while I was filling my car with gas someone asked me for some money to get to Kokomo.  A city about 40 mins away.  I told him I wasn’t sure what cash I had.  While pumping gas I watched this guy ask one person at his island, another man in a vehicle north of $60k at my island, and the guy pumping next to me.  The answers were “No.” “No.” “No.” and “Yes.”  I gave him $5.

As I drove away, I thought to myself,  (a) I guess I need to finish this specific blog on the poor asking for money and (b) I had just finished watching some amazing tennis by the number 1 player in the state and two top teams compete.  I would have paid $15-20 easily for that and it was free.  I figured I had more than $5 to burn on this guy.

If you try to sweep panhandlers off your streets somewhere then they just become someone else’s problem.  Is that really what you have in mind?


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