Panhandling brings a lot of discussion. During the summer the number of panhandlers seems to increase dramatically. What defines a panhandler?  Most dictionaries define a panhandler as an “urban beggar”, someone that begs from the street. Most people would agree on a definition, but not on other factors about panhandlers. There are misconceptions about panhandlers, do you give money or not, do you ban them or arrest them?

In a survey, surprisingly most panhandlers use the money they get to buy food. Not quite half admitted to buying alcohol or drugs. A large portion of panhandlers are homeless (82%), single (69%) and an alcoholic or drug addict (25-32%). We need to ask if we are really helping panhandlers by encouraging their lifestyle, or do we need to look at the underlying problems to help solve the problem? Most people that give to panhandlers do it out of empathy for someone in need.

Panhandling can cost your city tax dollars and resources that could be used elsewhere. Police calls to report panhandlers that are aggressive or under the influence divert them from other calls. When the panhandlers use the money for alcohol or drugs the costs rise considerably; especially if it involves the police, medical care, bio-hazard waste clean-up, incarceration and court appearances. The $5.00 you give can end up costing your city over $50,000.

Open Door Mission works at breaking the cycle of poverty. We have available “business cards” to give out to panhandlers that provide information about our services as well as a phone number to call-we will even pick them up. More and more cities are using similar cards to direct panhandlers to getting help, not hand-outs.  Help Open Door Mission help the panhandlers…we can send you some the cards to hand-out to those you see on the streets. Make a donation to help many not just one.

If you would like some of the “Help cards” please email mcope@opendoormission.org with your address and number of cards you would like.





Maggie Cope
Blog Coordinator

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