The last place I worked at was on the outskirts of downtown, close to some railroad tracks and the river and just a couple of blocks away from a homeless shelter. I was there for over 18 years and it was a traffic corridor for the homeless. They passed by following the tracks, or on the way to the shelter, or heading back to camp along the river.
There were around 35 of us in the building when I started and due to attrition and technological advances our numbers by the end had dwindled to less than 20. If we were outside or had the warehouse overhead doors open we could observe the stream of bedraggled humanity ebbing and flowing along the corridor. They would usually travel alone, sometimes with all of their earthly belongings in a pack and other times just searching for cans and bottles to redeem for the deposit. Some kept to themselves, others would wave or nod as they passed while a few it was obvious had entered a different, distant state of being.
Once in a while one of them would approach asking for a cigarette or money. Some of my coworkers would always dig to find what was requested while others never gave a thing. Before I quit smoking I would usually be willing to hand out a cigarette if requested but I rarely gave money, as the ones asking were usually inebriated and I didn’t want to contribute to their condition. Every now and then a sad story would come spilling out before they asked for what they were wanting and that would serve as more of a connect for me. To be told a tale of woe face to face by a fellow human being who is obviously suffering would usually get me to digging in my pockets to offer some kind of relief.
Thinking back on those times got me to wondering how others respond to these requests. Do you give to panhandlers?
How to Pick Up Cans for Fun and Profit
Food Banks, Pantries and Soup Kitchens: How to Find Food in Times of Need
Giving to Charities