Leigh-Ann and I are often asked. “What should I do when I come across a panhandler or homeless person?” Here are three tips in how to handle those occasions.

Tip #1: Look them in the eye and say, “hello!”

Consider that the other people passing by on the street are mostly ignoring the person panhandling. It may feel uncomfortable acknowledging them. But our comfort is not more important than recognizing their humanity. We can do our part by simply reminding ourselves that they are human too. We need to recognize we have a person standing in front of us who is hurting and broken. Give them a smile and a nod to let them know you see them. Wish them a good day. Acknowledge them and let them know they are not invisible.

Tip #2: Give (if you can)

People who are panhandling are doing so for a reason. Regardless of what this person might have done before, their basic living needs are not being met. Individuals who’ve come in off the streets have admitted that it’s very a very degrading experience to panhandle. It is often the last resort. We at IMFK do believe in giving but we do not encouraging giving money. (Follow your heart on this one.) There’s also a number of things that can be given to those who are experiencing homelessness. Shelters, food pantries and other local agencies alone can’t provide things like: batteries, flashlights, bus passes or cell phone minutes. Consider purchasing gift cards to local food establishments that are nearby or keeping a few Ziploc bags filled with toiletries and snacks in your car. Depending where you live you might see the same person everyday. If you feel comfortable enough it’s ok to ask person what they might specifically need to see if you can help provide that. Remember! It’s ok to say no to a request. If this is a bit out of your comfort zone and you still have a heart to give, reach out to a local agency in your area and give financially. But if you are able and feel called to give to someone whose hurting, then give knowing that the items you give are helping to make a difference in the life of one who feels invisible.

Tip #3: Get involved!

How can we address these problems more proactively going forward? Volunteer with local organizations to prevent and end homelessness is a good way to support your local community. Ask local organizations when they need help and get creative using your own unique talents and skill set to assist them. We need to educate ourselves with those who are suffering around us and learn more about the agencies who are trying to assist those who are hurting. Educating ourselves is noble but true advocacy doesn’t happen until we get involved in the doing.