Campaign says don't give money to panhandlers

Campaign says don't give money to panhandlers

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A campaign in Waco is urging residents not to give money to panhandlers in order to eliminate the practice. Some Austin homeless advocates say they agree with the idea.

Warren Berry often stands on the side of the I-35 access road holding a sign that reads, "Anything Helps. God bless."

"I don't approach vehicles, I don't even look at them unless they talk to me," Berry said. "If they want to give from their heart, I don't see no harm in that."

Berry told FOX 7 he does not directly ask anything for money and does not agree with aggressive panhandling.

"If you own a business you're in the business of making money and if you start hindering their profits then all you do is bring heat on the homeless and give homeless people a bad name," Berry said.

At the same time, he does not believe people should be told where to give and not give their spare change.

A new campaign in Waco is doing just that, discouraging people from giving to panhandlers.

"Recently we've seen what we believe is an increase in panhandling," said Dennis Haveranek, the general manager at the Waco Hilton and a member of the city's Public Improvement District advisory board which represents downtown businesses. He said Waco has lost out on conferences due to panhandling.

"That certainly takes the flavor of Waco away," Haveranek said. "They're not as crazy about Waco then when they've been panhandled."

So the group is posting and passing out signs at downtown businesses that say, "Spare change doesn't = real change."

"Instead of giving them $5 that will go to who knows where, direct them to help that can help them and get them a meal, place to sleep, job, instead of $5 that could end up with drugs, liquor or something else," said Haveranek.

We've been told that agencies in Austin have led similar campaigns in the past. While the city does not currently have an anti-panhandling campaign going, employees at Front Steps, which runs the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, also encourage people to give to agencies rather than panhandlers.

"Then we can provide better resources, better programs and be able to help more people transition from the street to shelter and then to housing," said Front Steps volunteer coordinator Jennifer Denton. She believes that's the best to way to know where your money is going.

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