City: Give to nonprofits, not panhandlers

Summer visitors are urged to give spare change to organizations instead of homeless people

Signs encourage people not to give to panhandlers on Portland streets, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)
Signs encourage people not to give to panhandlers on Portland streets, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Downtown Clean & Safe District program has relaunched a “Real Change Not Spare Change” campaign in the City of Portland.

Flyers, signs and advertisements encourage those approached by panhandlers to instead donate to organizations whose help can make a broader impact. The city is highlighting the issue as the warmer summer months approach and more folks are out and about.

A panhandler's sign on a downtown Portland street, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)
A panhandler’s sign on a downtown Portland street, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)

“We are urging people to change their behavior around giving money to people on the streets by redirecting it,” Mark Schlesinger with the Clean & Safe program said. “Their generosity toward groups mean to offer more widespread help.”

The campaign aims to direct donations to social service nonprofits.

The flyers, signs and advertisements will also have a number to text (text the word ‘give’ to 503.345.5438) and a QR code to scan from a mobile device that allows fora donation, which is split among Transition Projects, Portland Rescue Mission and New Avenues for Youth.

Just last year, these groups surveyed 188 panhandlers and found 72% of them are looking for access to services that are not yet available. But with help from this new campaign, those services could come earlier than expected.

Michelle MacIntosh asks people for help for art supplies on a downtown Portland street, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)
Michelle MacIntosh asks people for help for art supplies on a downtown Portland street, June 17, 2015 (KOIN)

In the meantime, workers with the Portland Rescue Mission have advice for those approached by panhandlers:

“I think one of the first things you should do is smile,” Alexa Mason said. “If you smile and say hello, and ask their name and when they are asking you for money, ask them if they are looking for a meal. Say, ‘hey I know a place that can provide you with a meal.'”

The program will run from June – November.

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