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OPINION: Guide to homeless giving from a former homeless person

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You see it on street signs and hear it occasionally from state and community leaders: Don’t give directly to panhandlers and the homeless. But why?

I was homeless once and, believe me, I wouldn’t have made it without the compassion of others.

Shouldn’t I be just as compassionate when I see someone begging for help? I don’t want to be that guy who doesn’t help after he has been helped.

Positive ways to help the homeless

That’s not the message though says homelessness advocate Pamela Atkinson.

“I don’t want to stop people giving, please don’t get me wrong. I mean, that would be terrible,” she says.

Instead, she and other leaders say charity should be directed through an organization aimed at helping the homeless through the most effective ways possible. Even though it’s hard for me to swallow, I agree.

I’ve heard of people giving food or other items to the homeless only to have those things discarded on the street. And, let’s be honest, most of us don’t have a food handler’s permit and aren’t qualified to be making meals for the homeless in our personal kitchens.

But we should help! And we should be teaching our kids to do the same. There are plenty of places to volunteer and plenty of organizations that need your charity. And those places make sure the people in the greatest need get real, lasting help.

One last note on this: People are in need all the time. As one homeless man put it, “We do live all year long, you know.” So let’s not limit our giving to just a few weeks a year around the holidays. Let’s do this right and do it regularly.

Jay Mcfarland hosts the JayMac News Show as well as the fictional podcast, Hosts of Eden. KSL Newsradio is part of Bonneville Media and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Don’t forget to review and subscribe to the JayMac Mac News Show podcast on Apple Podcasts. Or follow Jay on Twitter and Instagram or on Facebook.