New Pilot Program to Combat Panhandling

Outstretched hand of pathetic beggar
Homeless man begging. | Image from RapidEye

This week the City of Dallas launched its new pilot program to curb panhandling. The six-month program utilizes a database connecting panhandlers to social services.

According to The Dallas Morning News, the city will be placing signs across Dallas urging people to report panhandling to the city’s 311 non-emergency line. The signs will also ask citizens to donate to nonprofit organizations rather than give to panhandlers directly.

DMN reported, “City marshals and crisis intervention caseworkers will respond to areas where panhandling is reported and provide referrals to homeless service providers and other groups for help with housing, food, mental health or physical ailments.”

The key to the program’s expected success lies in the database, which will facilitate follow-up services and tracking of repeat offenders. Once an individual’s information is entered into the program’s database, city officials will investigate and assess the person’s needs. Multiple services will have access to the data, and a follow-up with the individual will be scheduled.

The city’s Office of Homeless Solutions will collect the data, which the city’s community courts and the RIGHT Care Team (Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team) can access.

The RIGHT Care Team consists of the Dallas Fire Department, the Dallas Police Department, Parkland Hospital, which will provide mental health clinicians, and other community partners.

If there is a panhandling case that involves substance abuse, it will be handled by the City of Dallas Marshal’s Office.

Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions director Christine Crossley told KERA News, “There’s so much more to the solution than just a one-off conversation or handing somebody something on the street…until that need is realized or fulfilled in a sustainable way, we’re not really solving the problem.”

David Spears, author of Exit Ramp: A Short Case Study of the Profitability of Panhandling, conducted a social experiment prior to his senior year at George Fox University in Oregon. Spears spent twelve days on the streets of Oregon panhandling. He averaged $11.10 an hour, more than Oregon minimum wage of $8.95 an hour. On his worst day, Spears would average $5.13 per hour, and on a good day, $24.63 per hour.

Currently, the minimum wage in Texas is $7.25, which doesn’t allow for a person to afford adequate housing in Dallas. Dallas Homeless Solutions reports a median gross rent of $950.00.

Crossley also notes that some panhandlers aren’t without housing but still need social services. “Really, that’s why the best way for us to combat this is to offer compassionate care when we see these folks. Because even if you arrested everybody on-site, how does that help them meet their financial need?” says Crossley.

Those who decline assistance could be issued citations to appear in community court.

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