My theory is that there is a panhandler for every heartstring.
Maybe you're a veteran who's sensitive to the guy who lost his legs in Vietnam. Maybe you struggled as a young mother, and you're touched by the pregnant teen. Whatever your type, the reaction is generally the same — a sickness in the gut, followed by the strong desire to help.
But experts have long argued that giving money to panhandlers isn't productive. The money, they say, goes to drugs and alcohol, and often keeps people on the streets longer. It's better to save your dollar and give it to an established charity.
Today, the El Paso County commissioners gave their blessing to a plan to encourage good samaritans to do exactly that when they're in No Man's Land (also known as The Avenue), the western part of Colorado Avenue that has been plagued by crime and aggressive panhandling.
Commissioners Endorse Efforts of Avenue Task Force to Support Assistance Agencies
Group Will Promote Best Practices to Help the Homeless and Discourage Panhandling
El Paso County, CO., March 19, 2013 — The Board of El Paso County Commissioners today approved a Resolution endorsing efforts of the Westside Avenue Action Task Force to discourage street corner panhandling by supporting agencies which offer lasting help to those in need. The Westside Avenue Action Task Force is a coalition of Westside Colorado Springs and Manitou residents, business representatives, elected officials and public safety officers working together to reduce crime, improve living conditions and boost economic vitality along the West Colorado Avenue corridor from Old Colorado City into Manitou Springs.
The Resolution notes, “The Avenue Task Force is developing a multimedia information campaign encouraging citizens and businesses to give generously to charities that offer genuine and lasting help to those who are homeless and in need.” It notes that informational materials produced by the group will be made available throughout El Paso County to, “direct the generosity of our citizens toward the agencies and organizations with the experience, skill and resources needed to address the causes of homelessness rather than enabling the continuation of this dangerous and destructive lifestyle.”
Task Force member and Vice President of the Organization of Westside Neighbors Mary Gallivan told Commissioners, “We are working on a solution that doesn’t push the problem to other parts of the community. Our goal is for the people to give to charities that can help the homeless.” Member Bonnie Lapor added, “When you give to charities, they have the funds to help them get their lives turned around.”
El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies, Colorado Springs Police and Manitou Police are working with the Task Force to develop and distribute the informational materials. El Paso County Sheriff’s Commander Rob King praised the Task Force for being open to suggestions and willing to work. King said, “They really came together as a community in all facets of this process and are likely to succeed in their common goal.”
Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose Commissioner District 3 includes the Westside corridor has been actively involved with Task Force. Clark noted, “This is a positive, pro-active effort to help people in need and to improve conditions through this corridor which is especially important to maintain jobs in our local tourism and visitor industry.”
Task Force informational materials ready for print can be downloaded at: www.westsideneighbors.org Click on the “panhandling” link on the left side of the page.” Informational videos are in production and will be available soon.