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Your Take: How do you feel about panhandlers?

This is a topic that has been the subject of previous Friday Your Take’s (do you give to panhandlers? [3]) but after reading this column by Derek Thompson [4], an associate editor at The Atlantic, I thought it’s something that deserved another look. Read his article and then come back, it’ll take but a few minutes (it’s not long and his point is made in the first two sentences).

In general, my feelings mirror his. I don’t give to panhandlers but I do support philanthropic organizations whose goals are to reduce homelessness and poverty. That includes places like our local food pantry. It’s not an idea situation because there’s loss whenever you have to go through something. Not every dollar I donate to a food pantry will go to helping someone, some of it will go towards upkeep, organizational costs, etc. I understand that, but I feel that’s the cost of ensuring the funds go to actually help people.

On the other hand, let’s consider the story of Million-Dollar Murray [5] (much longer story but well worth the read). Million dollar Murray refers to Murray Barr, a 6′ tall “bear of a man” who had cost the taxpayers of Reno about a million bucks in health care. If you donated to a philanthropy that tried to work with the homeless of Reno with the hopes that they’d help him, it wouldn’t be as effective as simply paying him (which is what they did). It’s not like giving money to a panhandler but it’s something to think about because you don’t expect that to work. But it did.