Why giving to panhandlers may do more harm than good

Why giving to panhandlers may do more harm than good

It’s basic human nature to help others in need. But a local charity doing just that says giving panhandlers food and money is just adding to Spokane’s homeless problem.

“I know a lot of people have a generous heart to help the poor,” said Phil Altmeyer, Executive Director of Spokane’s Union Gospel Mission.

“When you hand people money, and you enable them and their addiction, a lot of times what you’re saying is just stay where you’re at,” said Altmeyer. He believes people will only change if they seek the help they need, not the other way around.

“When we serve people meals under the bridge, underneath the streets, all around Spokane, what we’re developing is an environment that welcomes the poor to our city,” said Altmeyer.

He wants the public’s generosity to find the charities that help panhandlers get off the streets. Charities, like the Union Gospel Mission, which hold the homeless accountable.

“We have a drug and alcohol addiction program. We have the resources that the community is giving to help transform lives,” said Altmeyer. “To me, that’s what I say real help looks like. That’s what caring is all about.”

Last year UGM helped 200 homeless people get jobs, and off the street. Still, that’s where some would rather live.

“Shelters are now the modern Eastern State Hospital,” said David Good, a 52-year-old homeless man.

He and many others survive off the handouts and kindness of strangers.

“Sometimes just acknowledging that we’re here. Saying hello means more than any change you hand us out the window,” said Good.