How do you help a panhandler in Portland? Meet Shane

Shanetells his story.

Shane tells his story.

“When I first lost my job, I still had my van,” says Shane. “I would drive to Washington and collect cans. I could make $100 a day.” But when Shane’s van broke down, he couldn’t afford to fix it. He lost his ability to recycle for an income. Panhandling seemed like his best option. That was eight years ago.

Each night, Shane sleeps in a tent off a trail nearby. Each day, he packs all his belongings in a shopping cart for safekeeping, “I’ve lost everything three or four times,” he says.

What’s it like to panhandle? “It’s terrible, terrible,” Shane says. “Do you know how much pride a person has to suck inside themselves to beg for money? I was taught never to do that. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”

Shane worked for 35 years pouring concrete. “I’m not afraid of hard work,” he says. A bad back, his age, and a mouthful of missing teeth have made getting a job difficult. Shane had a job and an apartment a couple years ago. His wages were garnished due to debt owed and he couldn’t keep up with the rent. He ended up back on the streets, defeated, with more debt than before. Still, he’s willing to try again. He’d rather work or panhandle than resort to stealing food.

Read Rhea’s story from our “Rescue Portland” Summer Newsletter [PDF].

DID YOU KNOW? Only about 4% of people who are homeless panhandle. A 2013 San Francisco survey of 146 panhandlers revealed: 83% were men, 82% were homeless, 62% were disabled, 44% used it for drugs or alcohol and 26% served in the military.

Our Hope and Pathway Ministries are designed for individuals like Shane who need a helping hand in the midst of difficult times. We offer breakfast and dinner every day, and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. We also provide mail services for over 1,000 of our guests, as well as showers and restrooms. There are 128 beds available each night for men and 20 extended shelter beds. Our Connect Ministry can house up to 36 men, and offers a stable, safe and drug-free environment for three months to individuals who are trying to transition out of homelessness and into permanent housing and/or employment.


Here are six ways to help a person who is homeless:

  • 1) Anticipate the opportunity and be prepared with resources.
  • 2) Smile and say hello. Acknowledging the person gives them dignity.
  • 3) Engage the person in conversation. Take time to listen to their story.
  • 4) Ask what their greatest need is and help if you can. In many cases, helping with food or clothing is better than giving money. Keep care kits with you that include socks, toothbrushes, soap, bottled water, snacks or gift certificates for food. Include our clip-out coupons that describe services available at the Mission.
  • 5) Carry Trimet tickets and encourage the person to come to Portland Rescue Mission for help. Let them know you support the Mission so that their needs will be met. Our Burnside Shelter is open 24/7 with caring staff and volunteers.
  • 6) Ask if you can pray for them in any way and take a moment to do so.

Download your free copy of “5 Things A Homeless Person Could Use” along with instructions on how to pack a care kit: