Before the pandemic, an estimated 10,000 individuals in Arizona were experiencing homelessness. And while now, almost two years later, we can’t exactly determine how COVID-19 affected these numbers, all signs indicate that homelessness is increasing and there seem to be more people panhandling than ever before.  

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Many Arizonans question what to do when they encounter a panhandler. If they give them money, where will that money be spent? Is it courteous to give them food and water or other resources instead? Phoenix Rescue Mission (PRM), a leading provider of life-transforming solutions to persons facing hunger, homelessness, addiction, and trauma, has the answers.

Four simple tips include:

1. Be Prepared. Anticipate the opportunity and be ready to help. Always keep a spare bottle of water and granola bars in your glove compartment to give away. For those who want to offer more, keep a few “Hope Totes” handy. These kits could include:

• Toothbrush

• Toothpaste

• Soap

• Shampoo and conditioner

• Deodorant

• Chapstick

• Body or hand lotion

• NEW pair of socks

• Feminine hygiene products (label bag “WOMEN” as to avoid confusion)

2. Talk with them. Simply acknowledge the person as a fellow human being by saying hello and engaging in conversation. Talk to them about their life or their family. Asking them if they have a place to stay the night or a plan for the future can be a great way engage in a quick conversation while at a stop light.

Phoenix Rescue Mission.

3. Do NOT Give Money. You unfortunately don’t know how they plan to spend that money. So, offer an alternative, like clean socks, toilet paper, soap, granola bars, water bottles, a bus ticket, or a gift certificate at a restaurant.

4. Point them to helpful resources, like PRM. Download and print these Rescue Referrals, and hand them out to those you meet. Tell them you support the Mission, and it could be a place their needs can be met. The Mission is structured to help men and women through the deeper issues that many homeless men and women are working through.

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AUTHOR: Jussane Goodman is the Phoenix Rescue Mission director of community engagement. Phoenix Rescue Mission is a leading provider of Christ-centered, life-transforming solutions to persons facing hunger, homelessness, addiction, and trauma. The nonprofit Mission, which has been operating since 1952, is asking the public for support of its many programs designed to transform lives, including Hope for Hunger Food Bank, Hope Coach Street Outreach, Temporary Shelter Programs, Men’s Addiction Recovery Program and the Changing Lives Center for Women and Children.