Should You Give Money to Panhandlers?

This question was posed to readers in the June 15-21, 2017 Between the Lines column. Here’s what you had to say via Facebook and the comment section:

Michelle Pontbriant: [Full disclosure: Pontbriant is the Advocate’s circulation manager.] By Barnes and Noble in Holyoke I witnessed a homeless man walking through stopped traffic and getting into a yelling match with a bystander. I was thankful it wasn’t me — but he walked toward me as I parked. Feigning bravery I got out of my car and listened and watched as he took out his cell phone and called for a ride. A few months ago I had to spend an afternoon in downtown Northampton. I was asked for money 17 times — so I asked questions back. Many of them were bused in from Amherst. A family switches off duty in coveted Thorne’s spot. Other homeless estimate the Thorne’s spot brings in $20/hr while the one next to it only $6/hr. I witnessed the CVS homeless guy yell at a passerby who said he’d get him on the way out, then tried to sneak back by him with out paying. He paid in the form of verbal abuse instead. Thanks for writing this piece.

Matthew Dovell: Handing out a quarter is one thing, but one guy with “something” in his arm tried hitting me up for $15 and then proceeded to follow me around complete blocks. I personally know directors of homeless shelters and frankly not all people that are homeless want to live in a shelter. Some don’t like having rules and structure. A woman I used to work with was asked for money from one for a coffee. So instead of handing him money she waited in line and bought a coffee and handed it to him. To which he angrily threw it on the ground. The second someone asks for “money” instead of asking for the actual good or service, that usually means they aren’t buying it.

Jerry Beals: With young kids as daily passengers in my car I’m fortunate to always have spare food on hand, and I’m certainly willing to give it to anyone in need. Cash, on the other hand, is a different matter.

Tim Tero: Should we give money for corporate welfare?

Betty Freeman: Often times if I’m driving through Holyoke from one job to the next, I stop at Stop and Shop and get myself lunch and I always grab an extra sandwich and water for any panhandlers. I am not comfortable giving them money because I know how likely it is for that to go to drugs or alcohol. But I’ve also noticed a lot more people looking better than homeless, panhandling. I try not to judge based on looks and clothing. Like maybe someone was really generous recently. Which is another reason I don’t give them money.

David Irish: I met someone who did an article based on homeless people in Tuscon, Arizona. They did interviews with them, and found that most aren’t really homeless — a lot are recovering drug addicts or mentally ill, and they panhandle to get extra money for fun. There’s also a group of college students known as “Spangers,” who boast about not having jobs, having their rent and college paid for by their parents, and only begging to get extra fun-money.

I make one exception when giving out change to beggars. If they entertain me for my money, I give them something. One day this crazy looking guy walked up to me in Harvard Square, made a crazy face, and said “GIMME SOME MONEY!” I started cracking up laughing, and he smiled, so I gave him a buck. Another guy had a small toy piano, and was randomly playing keys. He had a sign saying “Piano lessons,” in front of his basket. I had to give him something for such a cute joke. Then there was the guy with a sign that read “Why lie? I want money for beer!”

Matthew Tas: NEVER! I offer food/drinks if I have any on my person. I even sometimes offer to buy food or a drink and I would say about half of the time they’ll graciously accept the offer. Half the time they don’t even want the cash for the reason they claim. “I need $10 to buy a bus ticket to X city to see my newborn baby girl.” I offer to go to Peter Pan station and buy them their ticket. “Oh, just give me the cash …”

Nicholas M Roche: This is right in front of my door … it gets annoying … sure. However, not one individual has been rude or overbearing and mostly. stay pleasant.

Author: Advocate Staff

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