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What is the best way to help a panhandler?

What is the best way to help a panhandler?

March 15, 2023

My husband and I recently attended a San Antonio District 8 townhall meeting where we discussed panhandling, the homeless, and encampments.  Having volunteered in various capacities to help with the homeless situation in the past, I was surprised about how much I learned at the hour-and-a-half meeting.

Most importantly, we learned about the best way to help the homeless when your heart is tugged by a panhandler or a homeless situation that looks desperate.  

In the past, I've had the idea to put together care packages to distribute to homeless people instead of giving out cash.  I've even considered making this a Seasons Wealth project for those who want to participate.  Socks are the most requested items at homeless shelters so I thought we would put together packets with socks, a bottle of water, and maybe a snack.  UNTIL... my city councilman mentioned that, when he recently went out to clean up an area that was a former homeless encampment, he found, none other than hundreds of care packages of socks, bottled water, and snacks littering up the area.  Obviously not the best idea I've had.

Some of the professionals at the meeting explained that our desire to help others is one of the things that exacerbates these problems because we don't know how to help effectively.  The city councilman also mentioned that there are pennies, nickles, and dimes all over the encampments because the homeless don't want to carry them around.  It sounds to me that it's a pretty bad idea to donate change on the street corner and might be a profitable idea to help clean up the encampments.

We also learned that there are two categories of people that panhandle.  The homeless and the professional panhandlers that might live in an apartment right next to the highway.  The professionals panhandle because they can make $300 - $400 dollars in about two hours.  

The city of San Antonio has set up an easy way to help effectively.  If you'd like to help local organizations serving people experiencing homelessness, you can donate to the “Change the Way We Give” initiative by texting “SA Gives” to 41444 or visit:

I love this because the money is distributed, without fees, to organizations around town who work with the homeless day-in and day-out and who know what they are doing.  It's fast and simple.  So, the next time you feel your heartstrings tugged by a situation at the street corner, pull out your phone and donate to those who are making a difference.