Buffalo Rising An alternative view on Panhandlers
An alternative view on Panhandlers…
Author: Chris Candelaria
A common way we see a portrait of homelessness in our community is the “Panhandler”. Panhandlers often are found in an area with high traffic such as at a stop light, or in front of stores, restaurants, or other places of business. We see these individuals in the community when commuting to work or passing through the city. We see the sign, which draws our attention; the figure of an individual fixed in one position; as well as the face that looks like it has seen its fair share of hardships. Panhandlers are at times viewed as vagrants, nuisances, or predators preying on the good will of others. At times we do see these individuals take aggressive approaches (Peters, 2016). One would argue that they are just people who have ended up in an unfortunate circumstance. Either way, one should not turn a blind eye, but seek to help the homeless and make a difference in their lives. Many of us are charitable. An act of good will or charity is a common theme we see especially around the holiday season.
Many people are concerned with what they could potentially be funding. While it is not everyone, substance abuse is prevalent among the homeless community. Like a false advertisement, we may not always trust what we see. The possibility of feeding an alcohol, opiate, or crack habit may be a deterrent for someone to give their money to a panhandler. Giving a monetary donation to the homeless individuals can be viewed as a gamble in a way; not knowing if you made a good decision but hoping it turns out for the better. Others may just give out of the kindness of their heart; praying that what they give may be used towards something to eat or something to better that individual’s situation.
A handful of people is of the mind to provide aid in another way. Many of the charitable decisions we make are based on what we see or know about the people we are helping. If we see they are cold maybe they need warmth, if they say they are hungry maybe they just need a meal, or perhaps they just need some spiritual support through the hard times. There are always alternatives to simply giving money. A donation can be the gift of a pair of gloves or boots in the freezing weather, giving up that extra sandwich you packed for lunch, or simply starting a conversation. Not too many homeless individuals know what services are in the community. Pointing them in the direction of a reputable charity organization or local homeless service provider is also an option. There is also the option to donate directly to charitable organizations who service the homeless.
Even as we see homelessness decrease, panhandling will continue to be prevalent in our community. There can be many reasons for this. As of 2014, 30% of the city of Buffalo is living below the poverty line. Panhandling can be viewed as a way to get extra income. For some homeless, it is a habit that can continue even when housing is no longer an issue. In a recent Blog by Brandon Gaille (2014), there were interesting statistics that highlighted panhandlers. One particular statistic that stood out to me was only 82% of panhandlers were homeless (2014). This statistic indicates that 18% of panhandlers aren’t even homeless. In this same sample, 44% admit to using part of their income from panhandling on drugs or alcohol at least once per week (2014). While some panhandlers can make upwards of $80,000 a year, it is understandable why one would continue to panhandle (2014). This is, of course, a rare occurrence for one to make this much. It merely highlights how lucrative panhandling can be.
Making the decision to help, can make a difference in a panhandler’s life. Ultimately, we choose to help for our reasons, but we should always be aware that there are many ways to help a panhandler than giving up spare change. It is important to understand this part of the community and to understand how our decisions to be charitable affects a panhandler.
For further information on the homeless in this city, visit Homeless Buffalo.