Spare change

rest in Cleveland, OH, 0.0 miles

As a general rule I try not to give money to panhandlers. It’s not because they’re not deserving. And it’s not for lack of compassion. I don’t give money because it doesn’t solve the problem. Instead I prefer to give money where it can be most effective.

Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to do–to ignore someone so obviously in need.

Many cities around the country have taken a stab at a middle ground so to speak. In places like Baltimore and Denver, Pittsburgh and Cleveland one can find parking meters designed to collect spare change to benefit the homeless. I saw a few dotted on the streets of Cleveland and I applaud the effort, no matter how small.

I do not begrudge those who give money to panhandlers on the street to ease their suffering. But giving small amounts of cash to a panhandler is unlikely to provide a roof over his or her head, or any real progress towards food and housing security. Further, when you give money in this fashion, it masks the problem and lets state, local and federal governments off the hook from their responsibility to ensure its populace is clothed, fed and housed. Money given to panhandlers is but a Band-Aid with no long-term benefits, and that allows governments to downplay the depth of the problem.

When you give money to a meter, the services it provides can be measured. The concept is not without controversy, but I can’t help but think it is a positive move to offer an outlet for those wishing to donate that can lead to meaningful services for people in need.

–By Jennifer E. Cooper