Panhandlers are a common sight in cities across America. In Houston, I encounter homeless people on a daily basis especially when I’m stopped at a traffic light and they aggressively start cleaning my windshield. While most people get upset by this act, I try to support the men and women when I have some spare cash on hand.
“Why did you give him money?” My son asked after witnessing me hand a few dollars to one of these guys.
“Because he doesn’t have a place to live and he probably doesn’t have any food,” I said.
“Why doesn’t he just get a job?” My son asked.
“I wish it were that simple,” I said. “No one wants to be homeless, but many factors can affect a person’s life and leave him on the street.”
A few years ago, I volunteered at a homeless shelter once a week. While talking to the residents, I learned how complicated life can be. At the shelter, I met all types of people – veterans, teachers, truck drivers, even a college professor with a Ph.D. Bouts with mental illness, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence were some of the leading causes of the residents’ homelessness.
Their stories were heartbreaking and compelled me to help as many of them as I could. That experience affected me deeply. Now, when I see homeless people on the street, I cannot ignore them. Although I don’t always give them money, I try to show some compassion by talking to them, looking them in the eye, and telling them about local shelters where they can get some assistance.
I also assemble care packages to keep in my car and give to homeless people when I encounter them on the street.
I joined a panel of experts on the local NPR show “Houston Matters” to discuss practical ways that citizens can help homeless people. The segment was inspired by a caller who wondered if giving money to homeless people was the best way to help them. Listen to the segment below and share how you deal with homeless people who ask for money.
Click here to listen to the full show.