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 Anti-Panhandling Campaign Launches Today 

 Public-private effort attempts to curb panhandling and chronic homelessness 

5/4/2011 | Contact: Sarah Erkmann 343-7103
Mayor's Office

ANCHORAGE- The Municipality of Anchorage, the Anchorage Coalition on Homelessness, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd., and several community partners will re-launch a campaign designed to deter panhandling. Mayor Dan Sullivan will help kick off the Change for the Better program today, Wed., May 4.

Change for the Better is an educational program – based on research and best practices in other cities – that seeks to deter panhandling through public awareness that Anchorage panhandlers are better served when individuals give money directly to the social service agencies that provide food, clothing, shelter and other living necessities to those in need.

“The simple fact is this:  panhandlers are growing in numbers for many reasons, not the least of which is the ease with which they can get money here in Anchorage,” said Mayor Dan Sullivan.  “We are a generous city, and we are filled with generous individuals.”

Directing the generous nature of Anchorage residents to those social service agencies which can best serve the needs of panhandlers, is part of an effective and long-term solution to the problem.

“People enjoy the instant gratification of giving a dollar or two to a panhandler,” said the Mayor. “But that money would be better spent at the various social service programs across the city.”

Change for the Better is the latest homeless initiative being implemented by the Mayor. Last winter saw the success of the Cold Weather Plan, a plan that allowed approved organizations to act as temporary homeless shelters when temperatures dipped below freezing. The program was largely viewed as beneficial and is expected to expand next year.

Change for the Better also will continue to educate the public about the Anchorage ordinance that makes it illegal for people in vehicles to give money to people soliciting money, rides or favors in a way that distracts drivers.

“Panhandling is more than just a homeless issue – it is a health and safety issue,” said Christopher Schutte, Executive Director of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.  “Offering money to someone standing on a street corner puts the panhandler and other drivers directly in danger and can result in serious automobile accidents.”

The campaign will utilize tools such as bus signs; flyers in city utility bills; public service announcements (PSAs); social media; a website; and posters placed inside supportive businesses. The Anchorage Police Dept. also will make an enforcement effort for an unspecified amount of time.

A list of participating charities can be found at http://www.changeforthebetteralaska.org/.

WHAT: Change for the Better Campaign Launch

WHERE: Mayor’s Conference Room, 8th floor of City Hall

WHEN: Wed., May 4, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

WHO: Mayor Dan Sullivan , Municipality of Anchorage

Chief Mark Mew, Anchorage Police Dept.

Christopher Schutte, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.

Susan H. Bomalaski, Ph.D., LPC, Catholic Social Services

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