Change your approach to panhandlers

As students and community members, we see panhandlers every day walking down Green Street, asking if we can spare some change for food or shelter.

This week, The Daily Illini published a three-part series on panhandling which showed the many facets of what panhandlers deal with, what students’ opinions are and what effective resources could help them.

While it is important to help and give back to the community and its members who may be struggling, giving directly to panhandlers is not the correct answer, and there are other more effective ways to give aid.

Despite good intentions, there is no way to ensure the money we give to panhandlers goes toward the right purposes. While students may give money with the hope of it helping provide these people nutrition or safety, many panhandlers suffer from alcohol and drug abuse and will put their money directly toward those vices, said Skip Frost, University of Illinois Police Department deputy chief.

Throughout the three-part series, our reporters saw panhandlers exiting a liquor store and participating in video gambling; they also heard a story of one panhandler with an expensive video game system.

One panhandler said to The Daily Illini he typically receives $45 a day on Green Street.

Frequently, poverty seems systematic and cyclical. For people relying on the money they receive from a day on Green Street, it might be hard to break out of the cycle and head toward positive life changes. So, to encourage positive change in their lives, students should instead give directly to charity organizations, such as United Way or C-U at Home, which help ensure the money is used effectively.

On campus, an easy way is to donate to the Make Real Change program run by the Champaign Center Partnership. People can put change in designated parking meters, and the funding will go toward Community Elements, a nonprofit organization that runs the TIMES Center.

The meters are located outside of T.I.S. Bookstore and Campustown Urgent Care and have raised $30.88 so far this year. If all the money given to panhandlers daily was instead given to these meters, enough funds could be consistently raised to help steer panhandlers toward hopeful success.

Even though it is hard to walk past people in need who deserve care, there are more organized services in place in Champaign-Urbana that can help the homeless and panhandlers in more permanent, effective ways.