Business, social groups, unveil homeless assistance plan

The Portland Business Alliance is working with several nonprofits to revive the “Real Change, Not Spare Change” program.

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The Portland Business Alliance is working with several nonprofits to revive the “Real Change, Not Spare Change” program.

Portland Rescue Mission, Transition Projects, New Avenues for Youth, and the PBA’s Downtown Clean & Safe District announced the relaunching of the program Wednesday.

“We want to disrupt that moment when someone would hand change to a person on the street and instead redirect that generosity towards groups who can offer the most widespread help,” says Mark Schlesinger, partner at Schlesinger Companies and incoming chair of the Downtown Clean & Safe District board of directors. “Portland has terrific nonprofits that are helping people move from the streets to safer shelters and ultimately to more productive lives. We want to encourage financial support for those programs.”

The campaign includes A-boards and flyers on heavily-trafficked downtown streets and advertisements on MAX trains travel though the Transit Mall. They encourage those approached by panhandlers to instead donate to the organizations at the press conference. The campaign provides a website, a number to text, and a QR code to scan from a mobile device that allows for a donation. The proceeds will be split among them. According to the group, panhandling increase along the number of homeless visible on downtown city streets as the weather improves. A recent survey by Downtown Clean & Safe and Transition Projects found that money given to panhandlers for food and shelter often also goes to harmful addictions, such as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. In contrast, organizations that work with the homeless and rely on donations offer basic services, while helping them take steps to improve their lives.

(SOURCE: Portland Tribune)

Schlesinger said, “We’re urging people to change their behavior around giving money to people on the streets by redirecting their generosity towards groups that can offer more wide-spread help to the homeless community.”

Instead of giving money to homeless people, the group advocates concerned citizens to text “give” to 503-345-5438 or online. 

“It’s our hope that this will take off, not so much in terms of fundraising but in terms of educating the public,” he said. “If it gains momentum, we hope to expand to even more social service agencies.

Downtown has experienced a seasonal increase in panhandling activity, according to Clean & Safe. The campaign will run through November.

(SOURCE: Portland Business Journal)

 An ordinance in an Eastern Oregon town seems to have driven away panhandlers.

Umatilla passed a city ordinance in May that prohibits drivers in the lane of travel from transferring items to pedestrians. As a result, residents are seeing fewer homeless people on the streets.

As for where the panhandlers have gone, one logical conclusion is they migrated to Hermiston. But Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said he hasn’t seen a noticeable jump in panhandling activity since Umatilla’s ordinance took effect. Hermiston’s City Council had its own discussion on panhandling in October. The council directed law enforcement to warn panhandlers against illegally blocking sidewalks, to work with private property owners where panhandlers appear and to help those asking for money get access to services like the Warming Station and Agape House.

“As far as the department is concerned, we want to be sensitive to true needs,” Edmiston said. “As we have contacted people in the last few months we have tried to put them in contact with services.”

(SOURCE: East Oregonian)

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