Spot-On, Practical Way to Help Chicago’s Needy

DSC_0616Seeing needy people on the streets of Chicago is not unusual.  However, the DNAinfo Chicago, February 1, 2016, article headline about the needy was: The Most Lucrative Panhandling Spots Downtown, According to Panhandlers (emphasis added).

(For the full article, click here)

The reporter’s fresh approach was used to provide a fair-minded, street level view of the challenges and personal histories of some needy Chicagoans (dubbed “panhandlers” for this article).

The article echoed what has become a mantra among observers of the urban landscape, namely, “People who are homeless have always been stigmatized, but some groups say it’s worse now than ever.”

Reader responses (for responses, click here) to this article expressed varied emotions from compassion to the needs of those on the street, to frustration with the lack of government action, to criticism of the needy for not doing a better job of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps — and an assortment of others.

Here’s one more view plus an action step.

Viewpoint:  While long-term solutions to homelessness and poverty is an imperative, we know that it’s critical to provide short-term help.  In other words, we want to help the needy meet today’s need for food and basic necessities.

Action step:  We suggest that those who want to provide immediate help to those they encounter on the street give them Chicago Shares vouchers instead of cash.

These vouchers (coupons) can be used for food and necessities – never for tobacco or alcohol – at Loop and near Loop establishments, including sandwich shops and grocery stories.

The program, which has been around since 1993, is simple and proven.

The $1 vouchers are sold at area places of worship and online.

Then generous Chicagoans can distribute them to needy people, who in turn can redeemed  these vouchers at such places, for example, as Max’s Take Out, 20 W. Adams, and the Jewel at 550 N. State Street.

The article revealed that while there are some locations that are better than others to ask passersby for change, there is no universal best location (perhaps akin to identifying the best place to get a flat tire).

What this means for those wanting to help the needy they may encounter:  It’d be wise to have a few Chicago Shares vouchers in your pocket or purse to hand out as the occasion might arise.

Learn more about where Chicago Shares may be purchased.