How do you handle panhandling? Portland Rescue Mission explains

Vicky, 22, pandhandles regularly in downtown Portland. (Photo by Thomas Boyd, The Oregonian)

Vicky, 22, pandhandles regularly in downtown Portland. (Photo by Thomas Boyd, The Oregonian)

How do you handle panhandling? That’s the question that The Oregonian posed in part six of their eight-part series on Portland’s “homeless crisis.” And here at Portland Rescue Mission, we’ve detailed out seven ways we think that can best be accomplished. Those seven ways include the following:

  • Anticipate the opportunity and be prepared
  • Smile and actually say hello. Go out of your way to approach rather than avoid them.
  • Engage the person. Start a conversation. Take time to listen.
  • Don’t give money. Ask what their greatest need is. In most cases, meeting the actual immediate need for food or clothing is best.
  • Offer an alternative. Keep CARE KITS with you that include socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, bottled water, healthy food items or gift certificates for food.
  • Carry public transportation tickets and encourage them to get to our Burnside Shelter for food, shelter and other immediate needs (Skidmore Fountain stop on the MAX).
  • Afterward, be sure to pray for both their physical needs as well as their spiritual hunger.

Our very own Alexa Mason also discussed homelessness in a bigger context with The Oregonian earlier in their series. She reiterated her findings on this very issue by saying, “Several people said that personal acknowledgement was the best gift someone could give — in many cases, even better than money. Actually stopping to say hello is really meaningful.”

In Orlando, Florida, the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness took another approach to panhandling. As part of its “Rethink Homelessness” initiative, they asked a few homeless people to write down something about themselves that people that would normally pass on right by them would never know. The end result was fascinating. Watch their  “Cardboard Stories” below.

If you have any interesting stories about how you have been able to help someone panhandling in a more non-traditional manner than just giving them money, let us know in the comments below. And if you feel led to help someone in a similar situation, consider following one of our recommendations above.