Should you give to Panhandlers?

pnhndlrPanhandling seems to be getting worse in San Antonio.  I don’t know what it is like in other cities but there are many intersections where they camp out every day with their cardboard signs and guilt you into giving them your change.

I am confused inside about what to do.  I don’t want to promote the idea of intersection panhandling but I also want to help them.

Some of them really need help and others are just lazy.  I’ve seen a surge of young people who are fully capable of getting a job out there begging for money while sipping on their Starbucks.  Both boys and girls.  I call them boys and girls because they are probably less than 30 and sometimes less than 20.  That’s very wrong.  The sad thing is that they are probably making more money panhandling than working at a fast food place.   I can’t give money to these kids.  They need to try harder.  They most likely didn’t pay attention in school and are now paying the price.  Maybe they are just in a temporary ditch but this isn’t the way out.

The majority of the panhandlers are haggardly and old.  These people are obviously long-term homeless.  They likely lost their blue-collar jobs and are too old and unskilled to make it in today’s society.  I sometimes will give them my change or maybe a $5.  Still, I don’t want to support panhandling so usually I don’t if I don’t have money handy.  I wish I could take one to lunch and find out what his/her story is.   On the other hand, you don’t want to get caught up in other people’s problems.

The third category are often middle-aged veterans (or so they say).  Some are missing limbs so they are likely telling the truth.  Those are the ones you feel for the most.  Usually unkempt and hairy indicating long-term homelessness.  It’s strange to know that someone who lost part of their body in service to their country are left to beg for money on the side of the road.  Obviously the country can’t support them 100% but there must be something that can be done like temporary housing and an education program to prepare them for civilian life.  Veterans have often joined the service because they don’t have the skills to make it in the first place.  I want to help them the most but still don’t want to promote the way they are doing it.

The road that I work on is a high homeless area.  Probably because of Goodwill store.  I am often approached in nearby restaurants.

San Antonio has support for the homeless but few seem to take advantage of it.  I’m guessing that panhandling pays rather well so why get free soup?  The weather isn’t usually bad here so they camp out wherever they want for free.

You can give to the local charities but it won’t get to these particular people.    Also, I would probably not give to one of those charities because I would not see it get to anyone.  I wish there was something else or a better way.

There doesn’t seem to be a better way so maybe I’ll keep some Ones and Fives handy in the car to give to those who really seem to need it.  Giving does actually make you feel a little better about yourself.  It’s a tough call. I can see why most people just ignore the homeless as if they don’t exist.  I at least try to make eye contact in some way.  It’s something.

What do you do?