How To Protect Your Money From Panhandlers

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I am tired of all the panhandlers I see begging for money on the street corner.  Why do these people do this?  The panhandlers stand there with their sign that reads, “Will Work for Food” or “Out of Work Vietnam Veteran”.  If they are looking for work, then why are they standing on a street corner with a can begging?  When was the last time that you got a job from standing alongside the street?  What panhandlers really want is to scam us out of our hard earned cash.  They are freeloaders and it makes me mad!

Get a job and stop panhandling!

I am seriously thinking about making my own sign.  It will read, “Get a Job!”  I will hold it up in my car window whenever I see a panhandler with their sign.  I know this doesn’t seem very politically correct, but this is America and I have the same freedom to express myself as these freeloaders have in begging.  My message to the panhandlers is that the best way for them to solve their problems is to go to work.  I have to work to support my family and I think the panhandlers should work too.  There are plenty of jobs available if you are willing to work.  The probability is that these people are lazy.  They have found that they can swindle honest, hard-working people out of their money for far less effort than what it would take if they got a job.  They should apply their time and creative effort in a serious endeavor, then I’m sure they could make more money than what they make panhandling.

The stories of panhandlers don’t usually pan out.

I guess what really burns me is that the sad stories panhandlers tell are usually lies.  They use guilt to prey upon our good natures.  I hate the idea of being scammed.  However, I seriously want to help someone that needs it.  How do you tell the difference?  Unfortunately, I think it is impossible.  Their lies are so good and so complete I think they sometimes start believing them. This is the dilemma each of us faces when we run into one of these people on the street.  Do we give them money knowing we are probably getting swindled or do we pass on by and feel the guilt?

My encounter with a panhandler in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Recently, I was approached by a woman in a Wal-Mart parking lot panhandling for money.  She told me that she was a single mom who was out of work.  She was really embarrassed to have to ask people for money this way, but she didn’t know any other way to feed her kids.  She continued to elaborate and even had tears start welling up in her eyes.  I couldn’t resist. I gave her five bucks.  How else do you get out of such a situation?  If I walk off, then I wonder the rest of the day whether I did the right thing.  Of course, I still think that I was probably scammed.

How to protect your money and avoid the guilt.

As a result of this ongoing dilemma, I have come up with some ideas on how we can protect our money and still avoid the guilt in these situations.  I hope these help you the next time you encounter a panhandler on the street.

  1. Make a list of local shelters.  Prepare a list of local shelters that provide beds, hot meals, and other forms of assistance to those in need.  When a panhandler corners you, refer them to one of these shelters.  If you run into panhandlers often, then you could obtain or prepare some cards in advance to hand out with the name and addresses of a few shelters.  This relieves the guilt without costing you any money because if the person is truly needy, then they can get help at the shelter.
  2. Carry some low-cost, nutritious snacks.  A friend of mine actually carries some snacks in her vehicle so that when she sees a panhandler on a corner, she can hand one to them.  Her guilt stems from wondering if the person is truly hungry as so many of their signs imply.  By providing them with a prepackaged snack, she can go on about her day without any guilt.  Of course, this costs her a little money, but much less than handing over a few dollars.  The City of Nashville suggests items like bottled water or food gift certificates.
  3. Donate money to worthy charities.  Find a good charity and donate money regularly to it.  Charity Navigator is a great place to start.  This way you can tell panhandlers that you donate all your money to your favorite charity and therefore you have a policy against making donations to individuals.  This relieves your guilt because you are donating to a good cause.  You might even combine this idea with one of the other two above.
  4. Just Ignore them. Through my experience the best way to handle a panhandler is to just ignore them, completely act like you do not see them, hear them or know they exist. Do not make eye contact with them and just carry on about your business. If you do not acknowledge them, then you do not have to listen to them and hear their sob story, therefore if you do not know their story they can not quilt you into giving them your hard earned money. A panhandler usually will stop trying to hustle money from you once they have realized you are ignoring them and want no part of their scheme. They will move on to the next person very quickly.
  5. Ask them for money.  If none of the above options work, then ask the Panhandler for money. As funny as this may sound, it is a very effective deterrent in getting panhandlers to leave you alone very quickly. Tell you need money, you know they have money and would like for them to give you money. It makes the panhandler think that you are aware of their scheme and know more then you should about their financial status. The situation then becomes rather awkward for them and they move on.

Panhandling is not the answer so don’t perpetuate the problem.

Begging for money on the street is not the answer to a panhandler’s problems.  When we give them money, we simply perpetuate the problem.  It may take a moment more of your time, but do something more productive so that maybe these people will find the real help they need and get off the street.  I am convinced that there are more positive ways to relieve the guilt without ignoring the issue all together.

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Craig is the founder of LifeGuider, he is dedicated to improving not only himself but also others in being more physically fit and mentally capable of handling life's challenges. He is not your regular life coach, no fancy clothes or fast cars, just a regular "Ole Joe" who has experienced the ups and downs of life like everyone else.

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