Do You Give Money To Panhandlers?

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New York magazine has a regular feature where they ask various luminaries a short list of questions and print the answers. The questions are always the same, and one of them is “Do you give money to panhandlers?” Here are the answers from their past year’s worth of interviews:

  • I used to all the time. Now it’s 50/50.
  • You know, I try not to, but sometimes you should. So sometimes I do.
  • Yes.
  • From time to time….But it’s very capricious.
  • Not always.
  • On subways. It’s not like a rule or anything: only subways. It’s just I’m always very distracted on the street.
  • Always.
  • Yes, unless they are clearly high or wasted.
  • Only when my kids (ages 7 and 4) are with me.
  • Sometimes — it’s on a case by case basis, but I always give my leftovers away.
  • Seldom. But always to those Mexican musicians on the 3 train.
  • Sometimes.
  • Yes.
  • Yes. I give money, food, to whoever.
  • Musicians and street performers almost always. Panhandlers sometimes.
  • Depends — it’s case by case.
  • Yes.
  • All the time.
  • Yes, sometimes.
  • Yes.
  • Depends on the panhandler.
  • When they play instruments. Not like, every time I see a musician I’ll give them money, but usually if I give to panhandlers it’ll be if they’re playing an instrument.
  • Yes, and all buskers on principle.
  • Yes.
  • Always.
  • Only if they entertain me.
  • Yes, but I often feel I choose the wrong ones.
  • Occasionally, but never to those in expensive down jackets, new boots, and designer jeans.
  • Yup!
  • Sometimes.
  • Why not?
  • Yesss, I cant help it. I always feel deep inside that one day that could be me.
  • Almost always.
  • I do, not all the time, but I do.
  • I choose to share food, water, and a smile.
  • I give them money if I find them entertaining and not annoying.
  • I do. Who doesn’t need a little help now and then?
  • Yes.

This is, obviously, only a cross section of New Yorkers who range from well-off to rich. Still, I draw two conclusions from this. First, panhandlers would all have houses in the suburbs and buskers would all be millionaires if everyone here were telling the truth. Second, nobody is willing to just flat-out admit in a public forum that they don’t give money to panhandlers. Marla Maples (“I choose to share food, water, and a smile”) and Randy Cohen (“I try not to”) come the closest. Discuss.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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