When you drive on any major street in Bellingham, you’ll inevitably come across a panhandler on the corner next to your favorite store or shopping area. Oftentimes we see the same person in the same spot, with the same sign asking for help for years. These signs play to our emotions, talking of being homeless and hungry, and they may even mention having a family. We don’t know if that is the truth, but at the same time, it’s difficult to just sit in your car and do nothing. Giving them a few dollars can seem like a good way to help, but long-term, it may not be helpful. There is no easy answer for helping people who panhandle, but it’s good to ask ourselves some questions before we reach for our wallet:
- Will giving them money change the situation they are in?
- Will it solve any drug or alcohol abuse problems they might be facing?
- Will it help them find employment, provide needed counseling, or offer other skills?
- Will this help them face and overcome obstacles that have defeated them in the past?
- Will this continue to enable them?
The reality is that giving money to panhandlers is more about how it makes us feel than it is about bringing lasting change and restoration to those who are struggling. Panhandling is unhealthy for the panhandler, and it is unhealthy for the community. We suggest that in place of money, you hand out bottles of water along with a Drop-In Center Referral Card. This will meet an immediate need while giving them information about the life-changing services that are offered here at Lighthouse Mission Ministries!
Cut them out, keep them in your wallet or purse, and the next time a panhandler approaches, you’ll be ready to give them a referral card. If you feel comfortable, enter into a conversation with the person who is panhandling. If you want to know more about the Mission before talking with people, read more about our services on our website, or contact us to set up a tour. For more helpful tips on how to help people who are homeless, visit What You Can Do Today.
A couple things to keep in mind: There are no fees to stay overnight or have a meal at the Mission. Our services are provided because of the generosity of people like you! Please contact us at (360) 671-1562 if you would like to pick up referral cards or you can print them using the link above!