Panhandlers: To give or not to give

Local News

A Baltimore woman was stabbed to death while trying to give money to a panhandler in December. Now, her husband, Keith Smith, is speaking out.

“Be careful when we see these panhandlers out and getting close to your car because, for me, the last thing I thought was that they were going to take my wife’s life,” Smith said.

While that’s a rare example miles away, his message comes as a word of warning for people everywhere.

“While some panhandlers are completely harmless, others may be potentially dangerous or mentally ill,” Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Gits said.

The laws on panhandling vary parish by parish. In East Baton Rouge, panhandling is illegal.

“It is illegal, so if they are aggressive towards you in your vehicle, then, of course, we suggest that you call law enforcement and let them take over,” Carmen Million of the Better Business Bureau said. 

Million said, when it comes to panhandlers, it’s perfectly fine to give if that’s what you want to do. For those who decide to give, the Louisiana Attorney General’s office suggests keeping your attention on the person instead of fumbling around in your car or purse.

“We urge you to have your money out and ready to go, that way, you won’t be going through your purse,” Gits said.

The Better Business Bureau said, if you give, know there’s no guarantee that your money will go towards the intended use.

“People give money and things to these people because they have signs that say they are hungry or they are out of work or they are homeless. What we want people to understand in that respect is that there are opportunites for these people to get help,” Million said.

Those opportunities she is referring to include local charities that provide food, shelter and clothing for people in need.

“Donating to a local charity is a great way to contribute to your community. We urge you to do your research,” Gits said.

When it comes to doing that research, you can always call the Better Business Bureau at 225-346-5222. There are also tips on safe giving on the Louisiana Attorney General’s website.

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