“If a panhandler asks me for money, what should I do?”

This question is asked almost every time I give a talk about homelessness, or when people find out I work for HOPE Calloway. Here is my advice based upon my knowledge of homelessness and talking with panhandlers.

1. Give or don’t give. It is really your choice. But always look the person in the eye who is asking and say “Hi.” If you are not going to give then add, “Sorry I can’t help today.” If you are going to give add, “Hope this helps.” Either way, always treat the person with respect. They are human beings, made in the image of God.

2. If you do give to a panhandler, remember it is a gift, and the person is free to do with it whatever he or she wants to do. “Give to everyone who asks and don’t ask people to return what they have taken from you.” Luke 6:30 CEV

3. If you do not give that is okay too. Panhandlers know most people will not give. One said to me, “I expect to get turned down most of the time, and it doesn’t bother me. Just treat me with respect.” (See Tip #1 above). 

4. If you feel unsafe or the person panhandling is being aggressive or threatening, leave the area and don’t give. As one panhandler said to me, “There are jerks in every line of life. Don’t reward them.” Contact local authorities if you are concerned that the person panhandling may be a danger to themselves or others. 

5. Sometimes give more than you are being asked for. If someone asks for a dollar, give them five! Both you and the panhandler can share in the joy of that unexpected gift. 

6. Set a limit or a boundary to your giving. Once you have reached that limit, respond to anyone who asks, “I’ve given out already what I give each day.”

7. There are people who panhandle who are not homeless. They are simply poor. It is near impossible to tell the difference between a homeless panhandler and one who is not. So, again, give if you want, or do not give if you do not want to, but treat everyone with respect. (See Tip #1 above). 

8. Feeling awkward or uncomfortable when you see a panhandler or are asked for money is okay. It means you have a conscience and some compassion. 

9. If you have time, and are so inclined, volunteer with an organization that works with people on the streets offering food, or shelter, or medical care etc. You will get to know some really interesting people and they will get to know you. You might see them on the streets from time to time and you can wave and yell “Hi!”

10. If you really want to help people who panhandle, support organizations in your area that provide services and resources to homeless or hungry people. Also resist all efforts to dehumanize, disrespect, and criminalize people who are on the streets with laws like “No panhandling” or myths like “Panhandlers make a lot of money panhandling.”

There will always be those among us who look to take advantage of your generosity. Do not let that stop you from giving. Reach out to our office if your have concerns about someone you meet on the street. Chances are, we’ve already met them.


One amazing thing that we have seen during this pandemic is how our community has come together to help each other. Many people who were homeless, or facing homelessness, have been able to secure or maintain housing as a direct result of the “come-togetherness” of our community. However, this does not mean all their problems have been solved. We must ensure that during times of crisis, such as the current pandemic, we support the wellbeing of the individuals we serve as best we can. One of the priorities should be avoiding the possibility of re-traumatization.

So how can we ensure that we are not causing more unnecessary trauma, while also not putting individuals who have previously experienced trauma in potentially triggering situations?

It comes down to the Four C’s of Support: Calm, Choice, Control and Connect.


“Homelessness is basically invisible in our community. How do we get the message out that it really does exist even though we don’t see people sleeping on park benches?” – Ruth

Thanks for the question Ruth! First, I want to acknowledge that our community isn’t out of the ordinary. Most people experiencing homelessness fall under the “provisionally accommodated” category of homelessness and are what most people call the “hidden homeless.”


When most people think about homelessness, their minds often jump to the image of someone sleeping and living on the streets. In reality, homelessness takes many forms and isn’t always obvious, even from up close. Homelessness can essentially be broken down into four categories: chronic, episodic, transitional, and hidden. We’ll go into detail about each of these groups and explore how we can make a difference together.


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Call us if you are in need of housing or emergency assistance. If it is after hours and you are experiencing an emergency, contact local law enforcement.

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