What is more troubling than being asked for money you don’t have by someone you have never seen before in your life? The current economic downturn affects many people, but is especially difficult for those already at an economic disadvantage. There are millions of homeless people around the world; some by choice and others by circumstance. Whatever the case, it is likely both humbling and humiliating for them to sit on the street corner asking for your spare change.
Of course, there are many conflicting feelings regarding panhandlers. Do they deserve our sympathy and our coins? Or are they unproductive members of society who should get a job if they can? Whatever your opinion may be, there are several solutions to the panhandling problem. Here are some ways to get rid of panhandlers if they approach you on the street or cause some trouble outside your business.
1. Give them a small amount.
No matter how generous (or not) you are feeling, sometimes a few coins will be enough for the average panhandler. Chances are you won’t be the only one to pass them on the street and give a small amount of change. This money can add up quickly! If you don’t have smaller coins, you shouldn’t feel obligated to give them a larger amount of money.
If you don’t like the idea of giving them money, you can try giving them some food instead. Why not pass on that half of a sub you saved from lunch? A panhandler likely needs it much more than you do.
Food can still be very useful for the homeless, and giving food is a great idea if you are concerned that they might be using the money for drugs or alcohol. This way you can keep your change for any small purchases you might need to make.
2. Reward good deeds.
Sometimes panhandlers will try to earn the money they receive. Perhaps they carried your groceries to your car for you, or returned your shopping cart. Some panhandlers also offer other services like a shoeshine or a window wash (although you might not be thrilled with the idea of having your window washed).
If a panhandler shows some initiative, you might consider rewarding them for their efforts. Of course, keep in mind that while this can be a good way to get rid of a panhandler in the short term, you could easily encounter them again at a later time.
Perhaps you feel that most homeless people aren’t ‘earning’ their money well enough, and if this is the case, reward those that you feel are deserving of your money!
3. Explain why you can’t give them money.
Some panhandlers can be very pushy. While some will simply sit on a street corner asking for handouts, others will get up and follow you around, insisting that you provide them with some money.
If this happens to you, try reasoning with them. Explain that you don’t have any money to give them at the moment, but you would if you did. If you feel like giving them some money but don’t have any with you at the time, you can also tell them you will find them on a later day to give them some change. If both of those strategies don’t work, you can tell the panhandler that you aren’t financially well off yourself. Telling them your financial woes is a good way to make them back off.
4. Ask them to leave.
In some areas of the world, panhandling as a practice is illegal. Generosity has its limits, and some panhandlers abuse this system. Investigate what the law is in your area so that you can make a proper informed decision.
If panhandling is indeed illegal, you can tell the panhandler so, and ask them to move on if they approach you. The same idea applies if you own a business that panhandlers tend to sit in front of.
You can ask them to leave regardless of whether panhandling is illegal or not. But always remember that panhandlers are people too, of course. You can ask them to move on elsewhere in a civil way without degrading them as people.
Try to reason with a panhandler if they are sitting outside of your business or property. Explain to them that while you understand the position they are in, they are potentially taking away business from your company or are bothering your existing customers. Panhandlers like to target people sitting outside at restaurants, for instance, when it is almost impossible for the people they ask to escape from the situation. Asking panhandlers to move on can be an effective way to get rid of them.
5. Try a No Panhandling sign.
A good way to stop panhandling before it starts is to place a No Panhandling sign outside of your shop, café, or restaurant. Make sure it is clearly visible for panhandlers to see. This strategy is not guaranteed to work, but some panhandlers will respect your wishes and move on to another area.
Having a sign gives you a point of reference as well. If you ask a panhandler to move on and they refuse to do so, you can point at the sign as a way to demonstrate your point and show them that their panhandling activities are not welcome.
6. Call the authorities.
If you tried to reason with a panhandler but were unsuccessful in doing so, it may be time to move on to a more serious step by calling the authorities.
Panhandlers can get aggressive, whether they are asking you for money in a public space or bothering customers outside of your business. If asking them to leave didn’t work, you can threaten to call the police. Because panhandling is illegal in many areas, this simple step alone might prove effective enough to make them move on.
Aggressive panhandling tactics include asking for money near a bank or ATM, asking for money within a certain distance of a business, physically entering a vehicle with some section of their body (inserting their head or hands, for instance), following or stalking people for money, or threatening someone for money (or to give more money than was initially offered). If any of these scenarios apply, the police might be your best bet!
The police can arrest panhandlers if the problem is getting serious. You are will within your rights to call the police if you feel threatened or were attacked. You aren’t required to give a panhandler anything, so if they are hassling you, don’t feel like you need to cave and give them money, or give them more money in some cases.
Most of us take for granted what we have in our lives: a steady job and a home are luxuries that many people cannot afford. Both of these factors put you in a better position than almost every panhandler. Consider offering some assistance to them if you can. If you can’t afford to, or simply don’t believe in offering handouts to panhandlers, there are many ways that you can avoid doing so. If you want to get rid of a panhandler there are many ways you can do so, especially if panhandling is illegal in your area. Remember that panhandlers are people too, of course, and likely are not begging by choice. Be kind: everyone is fighting through a struggle that you know nothing about.