It’s not uncommon to come across someone asking for spare change on the side of the road on a daily basis.

In a couple hours on the corner, Daniel Blackburn can make 20 or 30 dollars. On a good day.

Daniel Blackburn/Panhandler for 13 yrs: “I’m just trying to survive. These people that have cars and houses are trying to survive too, they’re just trying to survive in a different way.”

He’s been panhandling in Joplin for 13 years. 

Daniel Blackburn/Panhandler for 13 yrs: “I’ve been clean off of methamphetamines for 16 years now. So and I don’t even think about touching the stuff.”

While drugs no longer hold him back, he says his A.D.D. and bipolar depression make it hard to hold down a job.

Daniel Blackburn/Panhandler for 13 yrs: “I’m in the process of trying psychiatric stuff to maybe get my disability, but that’s a process.”

This is Daniel’s story, but for some like Chris Blue–

Erin: “How does it feel when you’re standing out here?”

Chris Blue/Panhandler for 3 years: “I have to swallow a lot of pride.”

–it’s just trying to pay a bill.

Chris Blue/Panhandler for 3 years: “Trying to get help to get our electric bill paid, so that we can get it back on.” 

Trevor Duncan/ JPD PIO “And then there’s other people that are constantly getting called on. Whether it be because they’re intoxicated while they’re doing it and being a little bit aggressive with people, or they’re sitting in a place that they’re not welcome and don’t want to leave.”

A city ordinance attempts to manage these acts.

Trevor Duncan/ JPD PIO: “You can’t misportray why you’re collecting money, you can’t interfere with traffic as in being in the roadway. And then you can’t be in a place where the owner of the business is asking you to leave, you can’t be there as well. Also can’t be within a certain distance of banks and ATMs and things like that.”

And with every story being different, it’s a hard line to draw. To give, or not to give?

Debbie Markman / ESC Resource Develop. Direc: “I wonder if it’s really just ‘I don’t have enough income to meet basic needs and so I’m not sure how to connect with the employment population.’ So I think some of it is people lack knowledge, and we have to help them figure out what their other options are.” 

Some who work with those in need say while giving can be good, it may not help long-term efforts to get them back on their feet.

James Whitford /Executive Director Watered Gardens Mission: “If we don’t incorporate some aspect of challenge into the care for people that we’ve been given to serve and love, they too would remain dependent. So we have to incorporate some aspect of challenge into what we’re doing, and handing money out to someone holding a sign is not really encouraging that.”

Whitford says encouraging their ability to work can re-awaken capabilities a person may have forgotten they had. And that it can take much more than a dollar bill to remind someone of their worth.

Debbie Markman / ESC Resource Develop. Direc: “If you really want to help, pick somebody to help and reach out to them find out what it is that they truly need. And then figure out whether it’s your civic organization, your place of business, your church family… then you might be able to wrap around that one family or individual to help them on their way.”