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ArtPrize 2012 Spotlight – Dealing With Panhandlers

Coming to ArtPrize?  While you’re enjoying the various pieces, painting and sculptures throughout Grand Rapids (especially downtown), it’s a good possibility that you may be approached by someone asking for money, food or cigarettes.

It’s not the shiny and positive thing that most people want to talk about during ArtPrize and I understand that.   But because you may not be from a larger city, a frequent downtown GR visitor or very comfortable in a downtown setting in general, I want you to be aware of potential panhandlers and know how to react.

First, know that there is no such a thing as a stereotypical panhandler.  I’ve been hit up by people ranging from very well-spoken and somewhat well-dressed, to poorly dressed but very convincing, to poorly dressed and very direct.

Second, it’s okay to say “no” if someone asks you for money.  Seriously.  Don’t feel bad about it.   Here are some responses you can use:

  • Sorry, I don’t have any money.
  • I don’t carry cash.
  • No.
  • No (sir or ma’am).
  • If you’re asking me for money, the answer is no.
  • My company is looking for some employees, I can give you information if you’d like work.

Third, there are organizations who help the poor and homeless. The people asking you for money know these services and have probably used them, but they’d rather have money from you because it doesn’t come with strings attached.  Services are available at:

Fourth, be skeptical.  It’s okay.  When you’ve been hit up for money and/or told some stories as often as downtown workers have, no story is convincing enough.

Unfortunately, I gave a fairly substantial amount of money ($40) to a very convincing woman.  It was 11:30 at night, she seemed distraught and very legitimate.  She even quickly and easily answered my questions about her kids, which I asked to see if she was legitimate.  I later learned she ran that same story on one of my employees on another day.

Finally, if you want to give money to someone, that’s okay.

While this entire blog may sound cold and heartless, I simply wanted you be aware that some people will ask you for money – some polite, some not so polite – when you’re downtown for ArtPrize.

Enjoy the art!  Seriously!  But don’t be caught off-guard by people who would like your money, either.

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