Sunday, September 7, 2008

Atlanta Says "Don't Give Directly to the Homeless, Give to Charity Instead"

The September 7, 2008, issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has an article about Atlanta's attempts to reduce panhandling in that city.  The idea is to encourage citizens not to give change to panhandlers and to, instead, give money to charities.  Here is an excerpt from the story:

“You want to stop enabling them,” said Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, whose district includes downtown. “When people are losing their lives over pocket change, we have to do something.”

Hall was referring to a killing last week at a Midtown gas station where police said a man was shot to death after arguing with a panhandler. A suspect was arrested and charged with murder.

The newest campaign follows last month’s police operation to arrest aggressive beggars. The roundup was the largest since the city passed an anti-panhandling ordinance in 2005. The arrests coincided with attempts to stem loitering at Woodruff Park and Barbara Asher Square near the Five Points MARTA station.

. . . .

Starnes said the public education effort —- which will be rolled out at downtown hotels, businesses, residences and convention centers and in radio spots —- will suggest the names of organizations where people can contribute and help the homeless. Also, the city will try to bring the homeless into programs for counseling and treatment.

I understand the concern to protect citizens and businesses, but what does this say about compassion?  Is giving to charity a good substitute for the immediate relief afforded by directly donating to those in need?  let's see how Atlanta's plan works.

For the entire story, see "City Urges Tough Love for Beggars - Plea to Public: Save it for Charity so Pushy Panhandling Won't Pay" in the September 7, 2008, issue of the AJC.


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