The Truth About Panhandling



Via Mobile Loaves & Fishes

Why panhandling?  Is it really profitable?  Or is there something going on in our society that compels people to humiliate themselves for spare change?  These are all provocative questions that researchers have attempted to answer in a variety of ways.

Although the homeless population in any city or country is challenging to study because of their lack of permanent addresses and reliable communication, academic and practical interest in the population is growing and studies are becoming more common.  We’d like to share some of the resulting facts and figures with you—they question and contradict some of the popular ideas about panhandling and the best way to solve it.

Research suggests that prosecuting panhandlers is NOT the way to stop panhandling
The issue of panhandling is best addressed by organizations and institutions that specialize in the problems of homelessness and addiction.  The informal “lay person” or “giver” may contribute to this behavior. (Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Stronger Than Dirt: Public Humiliation and Status Enhancement among Panhandlers)

Research suggests that panhandlers aren’t “lazy” or “on easy street”
41% of Texas panhandlers surveyed were employed. (Homelessness in Texas: Results of a Statewide Survey, Texas Homeless Network)

Research suggests that panhandlers would rather be making money another way
The vast majority of panhandlers desire return to employment but found that health problems, mental health problems, loss of home, loss of family members, recent loss of job, and limited access hygiene facilities complicate this desire. (A Study of Public solicitation in Austin : A Preliminary Report)

Research suggests increasing minimum wage may be the best option to prevent panhandling
Short of a holistic approach to the end of homelessness, the most promising policy response to panhandling would seem to involve steps that increase income (as opposed to the prohibition of panhandling or the prosecution of panhandlers). (Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?: Homelessness, Panhandling, and the Public)

Research suggests that panhandlers are often educated
35% of Austin panhandlers reported high school diplomas or GED, and an additional 33% reported some college education or college graduates.  (UT Austin Roadside Solicitors Report)

Research suggests that panhandling is a behavior passed down from childhood
23% experienced homeless before 18 years of age.  (UT Austin Roadside Solicitors Report)

Research suggests that panhandlers desire viable employment
37.8% of homeless surveyed work, 89.7% wanted to work, and 89% would work a 40-hour job if they could be sure it would cover their basic living expenses, but the minimum wage of $5.15 isn’t enough. (House the Homeless, Inc & Keep Austin House/AmeriCorps, The Homeless Survey)


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Posted by on Feb 27 2011. Filed under Featured Articles, Homelessness. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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