Viewpoint: Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness Develops Draft Panhandling Guidelines

On April 3, 2017, the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (PPTFH) convened a community meeting to discuss the subject of “panhandling” in Pacific Palisades. Meeting participants discussed the pros and cons of giving to people who solicit money on the street and came to conclusions about the practice. Based upon this community input, PPTFH developed the following panhandling guidelines. (Note: Panhandling is defined as people asking for money on the streets. Requesting or receiving food, clothing, water or assistance is not considered panhandling.)

“Give real change, not spare change”

  1. Donate to PPTFH and/or other professional organizations that have demonstrated a successful record of helping people out of homelessness, thereby making a real change. Encourage others to do the same.
  2. Understand that panhandlers are not necessarily homeless individuals.
  3. Encourage family, friends, visitors and those from surrounding communities to refrain from giving money to panhandlers.
  4. When responding to a panhandler, instead of giving money respond by giving the PPTFH “services card” that provides a phone number to contact the PPTFH outreach team and services. Other supportive ways of responding are bottled water, sodas or food certificates in addition to the “services card.” (Cards may be obtained from locations listed on the PPTFH website at pptfh.org)
  5. Be kind and respectful to panhandlers.
  6. When choosing to engage with a panhandler, carefully assess the situation to ensure your own safety.
  7. When confronted with the feelings, uncertainties and discomfort associated with being asked for money, focus on the ways you, through PPTFH or other organizations, can contribute in a way that provides real change for homeless individuals rather than giving spare change.
  8. Give time and thought to helping children understand the difference between panhandling and homelessness, spare change and real change. For example, model compassion for children by joining them in activities such as serving food at homeless shelters or collecting clothing or raising money for credible service organizations that help homeless people. Encourage children to contribute a portion of their allowance to a homeless prevention project, or participate in support of an affordable housing project.

(Editor’s note: The PPTFH would like feedback on the guidelines they’ve developed. The next community meeting will be held November 9 in the Pacific Palisades Library community room. Visit pptfh.org.)

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