Effective ways to donate to the homeless during the holiday season

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah’s Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox is proud of the state’s reputation for being the most generous.

“I get to brag about our state everywhere I go and the first thing I remind people is that we are the most generous state in the nation and there isn’t a close second,” Cox said.

But the Lieutenant Governor wants people who donate to think before they make a donation.  He believes a thoughtful donation can do the most good.

“Whenever I see one of our friends experiencing homelessness on the street, my first impulse is I want to give them something, I want to help them,” Cox said.  “Part of that is a little selfish because it feels really good to do that.”

He and other community leaders hope people resist that urge.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown believes a number of issues are caused when individuals give directly to panhandlers.

“A lot of times the items that they give are pilfered through, they’re left on the street,” Brown said.  “At times it causes traffic issues and I’ve even seen fights over some of the donations that are handed out.  There is a better way.”

The Lieutenant Governor believes issues with monetary donations to panhandlers can be even worse.

“The biggest problem that people don’t recognize is that money you hand that panhandler right there on the street -- that might be the dosage that ends up killing that person,” Cox said.  “This might be the time they get an overdose.  This might be the time they get a bad dose of fentanyl or some other drug and you might literally be killing the person you are trying to help.”

They say the best way to help is to give to known organizations with a history of positive programs designed to help those in need.

“The message is this is a compassionate community,” Brown said.  “Continue to give, but give in a way that we can leverage what is given and make sure it gets into the hands of those who truly need it.”

Those who are looking to find an organization aimed at helping the less fortunate can go to SLChost.org for a list of approved service providers.