Panhandlers - Controversial? Lets Break it Down

My husband always cautions me on posting blogs that could be controversial. I get it, I own my own small business and expressing strong opinions could be a bad move. I believe in ‘to each his own’ and I seem to assume that others feel the similarly. Just because my belief might be strong, doesn’t mean that I judge you for your beliefs, nor would I assume that you are wrong and that I am right.

I expect this could be a controversial topic, so I welcome all feedback and comments.  But heres the truth * I give money to the folks standing at the top of expressway ramps! * There, I said it. I do it! I do it as often as I can, which is to say, anytime I have a $5 or anything smaller, I give it to them.  I have heard all of the reasons why not to, and I have an opinion.

I have heard “They just use the money for cigarettes, drugs and/or booze”. My reply ‘so what?’ While I’d rather they not spend the money on these items, and in my rose-colored glasses world, they aren’t! But lets say they are. Well, if that’s what keeps them happy for a day, then so be it. Here I am driving in my car (its not new and its not fancy, but it works!). I’m sipping on my starbucks $5 latte pulling out of the mall after making purchases and even caught myself being annoyed that too much change in my wallet made my purse heavy and wallet bulky. I bet they don’t ever have that complaint. How do I NOT give them some change. I just did things that made me happy for the day, what’s wrong with contributing to anything that might make that person happy for a day.

“If they have all day to stand there, they had all day to look for a job”.  I think standing there all day is a job, and not an easy one at that! If that person is willing to stand there all day in the heat, snow, rain and wind – I am willing to give them some change for that. My job is in a climate controlled building. I have clients leave smiling and pain-free. I have them attending grateful to be there. I enjoy some fantastic conversations and the opportunity to build beautiful relationships. The person at the top of the off ramp is greeted by jeers and judgment. And even worse, those who simply look away and ignore, they spend the day without acknowledgment or recognition that they are a human being. It makes me feel good to smile at them, offer some pleasantries and yes, a little change.

“What if they leave that spot and jump in a BMW to drive to a home”. Ok, we’ve all heard the stories of people who panhandle and then are seen getting into a beautiful car and drive to a home bigger then yours. To this I offer two things 1) I am fairly certain this is a rare occurrence and that more often then not, the person is truly unemployed/living below the poverty line and 2) well, I guess panhandling is their job and their good at it! While I would prefer that my money be going to someone who is in need, I’m wiling to take the chance. If I have handed a master panhandler some change to pay for their BMW once or twice, then so be it. They got me, they did their job for the day. But I am certain that my money has gone to someone who has far less then me WAY more often.

If you’ve never offered a homeless person money, food or supplies – I urge you to give it shot! If not for them, then for you. Do it for selfish reasons if for no other reason. I can assure you, it feels GOOD to walk or drive away knowing that you’ve contributed to someone else’s happiness. No matter what it is that makes them happy. Yes, I have seen some great ideas, taking an old purse and filling it with ‘lady stuff’ to pass on to a female in need. Providing food rather then money. But how often have you actually done this? I never have. Whenever I buy food it’s because I’m about to eat it – I doubt anyone wants my half eaten sandwich or open bag of nuts. The purse idea is good. In fact, I have a few for sale online right now and I think I’ll toss them in my car to give away instead.

If you have any personal reasons for not providing change to homeless – or if you find my reasoning controversial, I’d love to hear from you! Not to argue, just because I always love to hear the opposing side….without it, my world stays far too small.

Namaste my loves – keep summering on!

Dana Smith DO(MP)


Dana Smith