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Give and do not withhold


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“Don’t Give to Panhandlers,” the signs will read. Around Spokane, billboards bearing this request will soon rise. It is an effort led by downtown businesses and local non-profits to curb handouts and increase gifts to charities and organizations that help folks in need.

I understand the approach, and in part I have great hope for it. I have sat in many a board meeting discussing the complex reasons why people struggle with poverty in this and many places. When the budgets of Project Hope Spokane, Transitions, Our Place Ministries, Global Neighborhood, The Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, Christ Kitchen, etc. etc. etc. skyrocket, I will rejoice.

But still I bristle at this message. I think of those who, for reasons of faith, choose to beg. I think of Jesus who walked with beggars and emptied himself of everything. And I think of those of us whose needs are not visible.

I need to be called out of my place of privilege. I need to be faced with the truth about poverty in the place I live, and I need to remember my part in that system.

Will this campaign help question the widening gap between wealthy and poor? Will this campaign advocate for good wages and health benefits for workers? Will this campaign address greed?

Let us give without holding back. Maybe not to those with signs on street corners; maybe so. But let us remember that God is the giver of everything under the sun, and may our generosity in God’s name lead to justice.


Liv Larson Andrews
Liv Larson Andrews
Liv Larson Andrews believes in the sensus lusus, or playful spirit. Liturgy, worship and faithful practice are at their best when accompanied with a wink, she says.




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Eric Blauer

For me, this week has been full of interaction with homeless, mentally ill and children suffering from the impacts and environments of living and suffering from poverty. I do not see poverty as a friend but an enemy to fight and liberate from in love, courage and boldness. If money goes from our hands to the hands of an addict, who then uses that money to buy drink or drug and then violates and abuses a child or woman, that act no longer looks like love or charity to me. Empowering addiction, abuse, homelessness, violence and theft by perpetuating and empowering sin and dysfunction isn’t helping but hurting in my opinion.


I give my time, effort and money to reputable homeless ministries. I do not give money to people standing on street corners because a high proportion of them already receive disability income, subsidized housing and free healthcare (because of their disabilities.) They are asking for income tax-free spending money. That’s all. Many of them have had to pay somebody to use a particular spot. Many of them use props like dogs, walkers, and even children to con people into giving them money. By giving money to these people you are cheating the real homeless people who could have been helped if you had made the effort to give money to a reputable homeless ministry instead.


Hi Liv,

I agree that getting the message right is very important. In my opinion, “Don’t give to panhandlers” sends the wrong message. If even ONE amongst us requests legitimate mercy on our streets, his or her voice is trampled upon by these words.

I’ve often wondered about a city-wide campaign in coordination with charities where we can buy vouchers to give folks for food, supplies, housing? Has this come up Liv?

The city is investing a lot of money to add more and replace old parking meters downtown. The new meters all take plastic. Why not invent/create (Kickstarter/Crowdswell?) a drive by WAVE your plastic to donate $5 to local homeless charities “meter post” and have them installed on EVERY major intersection/off ramp? Perhaps rather than just telling folks what not to do, give us an immediate alternative?

The more who help improve this message, the more compassionate our community will be.


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