This is the right way to engage with panhandlers - Generocity Philly


Nov. 24, 2015 6:03 pm

This is the right way to engage with panhandlers

You're probably doing it wrong. With the cold season upon us, we spoke with Emily Taylor of homelessness advocacy newspaper One Step Away about the best way to engage a person asking for help on the street.

There's a productive way to interact with panhandlers. (Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo, used under a Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Flickr user Steven Depolo, used under a Creative Commons license)


There is an appropriate and productive way to interact with panhandlers, and the folks at local homeless advocacy newspaper One Step Away know it.

The paper is written and distributed by men and women, called vendors, who have been or currently are homeless. The paper even features a regular Q&A section with “Charles,” a vendor who recently attained housing. In November’s issue, Charles answers readers’ questions about how to deal with aggressive panhandlers and whether money is the best thing to give.

One Step Away Director Emily Taylor said many of the vendors she employs have experience panhandling, and most felt uncomfortable with the idea of asking people for money. Naturally, writing for and distributing the paper is a healthy alternative — a “positive way to get the message out there and get some legal income,” she said.

It’s important to be wary of con-artists, but just as important to understand when a panhandler is in need of actual help. Taylor evoked the old “don’t judge a book by its cover” adage. The most common mistake made by the public? Deciding what’s best for a person before even communicating with them.

“Talk to the individual and try to figure out what their needs are instead of looking at somebody and making that assessment based on your opinions of what they need,” Taylor said. It might not even be money — Taylor said some panhandlers are in need of food, clothes, blankets and other essentials.

That’s why the public should know which local organizations to direct the homeless toward:

  • Broad Street Ministry: “They have a mailing service and do dinners called Breaking Bread, so they give out food, but it’s in a dining room setting,” Taylor said. “It’s more humane and respectful.” Broad Street Ministry is located at 315 S. Broad Street.
  • Project HOME: “If you think somebody is seriously struggling or the temperature is way too cold, they’ll send workers out to engage with the individual,” Taylor said. Last year during the winter months, Project HOME opened a walk-in center in the concourse beneath Two Penn Center. Call Project HOME’s outreach line at (215) 232-0604.


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