H.O.P.E. has been getting a lot of emails, Facebook posts, and calls about what to say if you come across someone panhandling and if its permissible to give them money or not. We should start at the root cause of why someone would panhandle in the first place. For one, not every person is lazy or not looking for work. People who panhandle are not always the “booze drinking under belly of society” that the media would have you believe them to be. Many, if not the majority, are out of work individuals who can’t afford stable shelter because they can’t find or sustain suitable employment. A couple of odd jobs just won’t make ends meet, plus food and other necessities aren’t just hard to afford, but almost impossible to store and keep up with if you don’t have a home. With these facts in mind, yes, it is okay to give assistance or money to a person living on the streets. Also equipping them with accurate information about how to receive housing assistance is vital as well.
Recently, the story of a local bartender at Huey’s restaurant giving a man with only two dollars a full meal went viral. While it was noble of the bartender at Huey’s, people experiencing homeless are a proud and would rather not have to beg, and as we found out, the man wanted to pay everything he had for the meal. This is why you should approach every individual as a human being. Especially if the individual seems to be dealing with mental illness. Just because you can’t get yourself together doesn’t mean you don’t have dignity. H.O.P.E members can tell you about how they’ve been shunned from places, barred from using the restroom at certain establishments, or treated unfairly while living on the streets. When people are treated with kindness, they are more likely to open up about their situation and receive the kind of care they need. This usually only happens when nothing is forced on the person, when they are given options, and the decision to get help is left totally up to them.
Now that you know how to approach a person living on the streets, please do so. We have opportunities for you to volunteer in January for the Community Alliance for the Homeless’ Annual-Point-In Time Count or volunteering to with the City’s Outreach Team, which patrols or seeks out those who are vulnerable on the streets and provides assistance if need be. Also, you can volunteer with H.O.P.E., who does regular outreach to the community of those experiencing homelessness.
For more information about how you can help donate or support HOPE or those who do the work to combat homelessness,or would like to put on a HOPE shirt and volunteer, contact Tamara Hendrix, (901)725.4990 or email@example.com.