How To Respond To Panhandling

Has a stranger ever asked you for money on the street? It can be an awkward situation if you don’t have any cash or you aren’t comfortable giving what you do have to someone you don’t know. Even if the person doesn’t seem to want anything else, there are certainly other ways to respond to panhandling.

You Have More Than Money to Give

Most of us ignore panhandlers because we assume they want our money, but you can still make an effort to help these people First of all, simply acknowledge the person, and chat with them for a few minutes. Even if you don’t give them a cent, offering kind words or a listening ear can make their day.

You can also offer snacks, water, or food. I visited my friend in graduate school, and before we left her apartment to walk the streets of downtown Philadelphia, I noticed she grabbed a few packs of crackers and other snacks. When I asked her why she was bringing food, she said she offers it instead of money to people living on the streets. I thought this was an effective way to acknowledge and respond to panhandling. She wasn’t giving them money, but at the same time, she wasn’t ignoring them.

Some people feel comfortable enough to offer to purchase a meal for a homeless person at a local eatery or fast food restaurant. This is another great alternative to handing over cash and is useful if you can’t carry food with you.

Challenge Yourself

It can be uncomfortable when strangers ask you for help or for money. Next time you encounter a panhandler, consider the way you respond and how you would want to be treated. There are good ways to acknowledge others without forking over cash. Even when you don’t have money, snacks, or time to offer, a simple smile and a “hello” can go a long way. Making eye contact and offering a pleasant greeting helps reinforce the human connection we all seek.

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