Saturday, May 25, 2013
City to Fine Drivers Donating to Panhandlers
The next time you see someone on the side of the road with a cardboard sign… you may want to think twice before handing them cash.
The Municipality of Anchorage kicks off the “Change for the Better” campaign to get rid of panhandling on the streets of Anchorage.
Mayor Dan Sullivan is teaming up with the Anchorage Police Department and local social service agencies to increase public safety and awareness about panhandling, for both the people handing out and receiving donations.
Hundreds of cars drive by the street corners of Anchorage. Most are lined with signs…and people asking for money or a helping hand.
“They need a hand up more than a hand out. If somebody's out there going to give them the hand up that’s what they need,” said homeless resident, Ricardo Molina.
After years of trying to thin the streets of homeless residents, the Sullivan administration is changing the rules of the road with a new ordinance because the issue is not about being homeless, but homeless residents and drivers engaging in panhandling.
The city said Anchorage police will issue fines for drivers caught luring people into the roadway to give them money or donations.
“I think we'll see that behavior change, and if the motorists aren't giving money, panhandling goes away,” said Sullivan.
“Why panhandle if you don’t make any money?” he continued.
Several homeless residents agree with Sullivan, saying while they appreciate donations, drivers are to blame.
“It’s not the one asking, it’s the one who's giving,” said David Pash, a homeless resident in Anchorage for more than 30 years.
“There are a lot of people out there with big hearts, there is,” he said.
But the people with big hearts will be faced with big fines if they don’t stop interacting with people on the street.
The Anchorage police said anyone giving a panhandler something from their car could face up to a $300 citation.
The police will begin stopping traffic violators Wednesday night, giving them warnings instead of fines, in addition to PSA cards about the “Change for the Better” campaign. However, the police will start enforcing the new laws by this weekend.
Which is why the city is encouraging people who give on the streets to give to a charity instead.
Agencies like the Salvation Army and Catholic Social Services will use the donations to provide food, clothing and shelter to those in need.
The “Change for the Better” program created a fund for people to donate to on their website, www.changeforthebetteralaska.org.