The answer to this question comes down to personal choice, although we recommend at least making eye contact and acknowledging individuals politely, even if your answer is a no. According to Homeless Hub, many people who panhandle are routinely ignored, cussed at, harassed, robbed, or assaulted. Eye contact is an affirming and a respectful nod to the individual.
It is important that you give individuals experiencing homelessness the dignity and respect of making their own choices.
If you are conflicted with concern that the individual will spend your money on drugs, cigarettes or alcohol… ask yourself, “why do I try to control what a homeless individual does with the money I give them but not my grocer, my waiter, my drycleaner, etc.? To act without judgement and with respect is to consider that what you are giving is a gift and no longer ‘your money’ once given.
Giving food and clothing might be welcome, but makes a lot of presumptions. It is best to ask a person what they need or want.
If you are still conflicted but want to help individuals who are street-involved, then perhaps you can carry coffee gift cards (and disposable masks) to distribute. This will assist panhandlers to get indoors, use a washroom, and access food or beverages of their choice.