Understanding A Panhandler

It’s 45 degrees and rainy today in Akron, Ohio.

I hate 45 degrees and rain. I’ll take 10 degrees and snow any day over this mess.

I’m writing this in front of a HappyLight that is supposed to counteract S.A.D. – seasonal affect disorder.

I sat here in front of this light because I didn’t know how I was going to motivate myself to accomplish anything today.

And then came Brett.

9:00am. And he is on!

He’s got his half-broken umbrella with him. He’s already wet.

He’s heading out to panhandle.

He usually goes for about 2-3 hours at a time.  He goes out about 4-5 times a week.

He checked his pocket for his inhaler. He has chronic COPD, hypertension, asthma and sleep apnea. He now can plug in his nebulizer at night now that he lives in our house instead of living in a tent.

I like to just go right for the jugular and ask the most stereotypical questions.

“So Brett, do you spend your money on drugs?”

“Man. I can’t afford drugs. That shit is expensive.”

“I spend my money on food. I love to eat.”

I asked him what else he spent his money on.

The list includes:

  • Rent
  • Phone bill
  • Personal Hygiene products
  • Clothes

He doesn’t do drugs. He doesn’t drink.

I asked him why he doesn’t have a job.

He said he’s trying to get a job.

He has been diagnosed with PTSD, complicated bereavement and borderline intellectual functioning.

Between his physical disabilities and his mental disabilities and some breaking and entering felonies from decades ago finding a job is really hard.

He’s focused on getting disability.

But he’s still applying for jobs. He doesn’t think he has the physical stamina to work in a warehouse anymore. But he is applying at the fast food restaurants.

He says that being in his 50s also makes it hard.

This post isn’t meant to make you feel bad about Brett.

This purpose of this post is to let you know that there are reasons that some people panhandle. I know some people that work AND panhandle. $8.15/hour is hard to make ends meet.

People often ask me if they should give to panhandlers. This is my advice:

Giving to a panhandler should be more about you than it is about them.

Giving should not be painful. It should feel like a blessing. It should feel wonderful.

If you don’t feel good about giving then don’t give. You probably aren’t ready yet on your journey through the universe to give. It’s OK. Possibly your path is to do no harm.

Not hurting those around you is a wonderful gift you can give to the world.

Then the next level is to give to your family. Mother Teresa often would suggest that the best way people could help the world is to go home and love your family.

So, if you don’t want to give to panhandlers please don’t ever feel guilty about doing so. (And for sure, some people are using it to get beer. Real drugs are, indeed, too expensive for a panhandler’s income.)

I can attest to one thing: if you give a couple dollars to Brett it is going to a good cause. He gives his food card to his kids. So all his food comes from our food pantry and panhandling.

On top of that, he usually shares his food with his housemates.

Here is Brett’s Gofundme:


2 thoughts on “Understanding A Panhandler

  1. Their are way to many panhandlers in the city of Akron one on almost every on & off ramp they are every where. can stand on a corner for 8 hours then you can damn well.stand at a job for 8 hours

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