The City of Arlington has introduced a pilot program to deter locals from giving money to panhandlers, instead encouraging those who want to give to direct their generosity toward nonprofits and shelters that provide services.
“If the desire is to help folks who are unhoused, there are more effective and direct ways to do that other than giving to someone at the side of the road because that can create an unsafe situation,” Arlington Deputy City Manager Jennifer Wichmann told CBS News.
Signs posted at three busy intersections in the city read, “It’s ok to say no to panhandlers.” They also refer people to a page on the City website that lists various government and non-profit initiatives aimed at helping those who are homeless.
“We’ve had about a 300% increase [in] traffic to our website that focuses on our homeless population,” Wichmann said.
Arlington police have also started keeping a closer eye on intersections where panhandlers and vagrants congregate, warning them about walking out onto the road to accept money — something that is technically illegal per an Arlington City ordinance.
“Police do a great job when they approach these folks of seeing what help is needed first, help them solve that problem so they don’t have to seek income in this pretty dangerous and difficult way,” Wichmann told CBS.
A City of Arlington press release sent to The Dallas Express said that anecdotal information from the Arlington Police Department indicates that panhandlers often use donations to support their drug and alcohol addictions.
“We’re just trying to figure out the best way to solve the problem, and really solving the problem for us is ensuring that we get these folks some sort of assistance in probably a more efficient and effective way than how they’re currently seeking it with the panhandling, and keeping folks safe,” Wichmann said to CBS News.
City staff are scheduled to brief the Arlington City Council on the results of the pilot program at the end of the summer. There are also plans to redesign two intersections with the goal of obstructing panhandlers trying to enter the road from medians.
The City of Dallas also discourages residents from giving money to panhandlers through its Give Responsibly initiative.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the City passed an ordinance last year that prohibits people from standing on medians less than six feet wide. However, the City is now embroiled in a lawsuit over this ordinance as critics claim it is an attack on panhandlers and vagrants.
While panhandling is often associated with homelessness, a 2017 Texas study found that nearly one out of five panhandlers claimed to be homeless when they were actually not.
Dallasites favor addressing the homelessness and vagrancy crisis through a “one-stop shop” model in which all homeless services are provided in a single location rather than being dispersed throughout the City, according to polling conducted by The Dallas Express.
This approach has proven successful in San Antonio through the City’s collaboration with the nonprofit Haven for Hope, which employs the “one-stop-shop” strategy.
Despite the City of Dallas’ efforts to mitigate the problem, most Dallas residents agree that homelessness and vagrancy are still serious issues the City must take further action to address.