Like most major metropolitan cities, Dallas has its issues with panhandlers.
Now, the city is considering launching an aggressive anti-panhandling campaign called Give Right-Dallas. The goal is to discourage people from giving to panhandlers who walk Dallas roadways and reduce the number of aggressive panhandlers who frequent entertainment districts like Deep Ellum.
"It's a public safety concern, and we're trying to keep our roadways safe. If you have individuals on the roadways and vehicles stopping on the roadways to give change, there's the potential for accidents and injuries," said Cheritta Johnson, interim director of the city's Office of Community Affairs.
The campaign includes a marketing strategy to increase public awareness, but one of its more unique approaches is the use of parking meters in several target areas to serve as collections points for people who want to donate their spare change.
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"We are hesitant to give panhandlers money. We wish there was a better way to give them money without giving it to them personally," said Kevin Keyes, who was in Deep Ellum for dinner on a busy Friday night. "I think it's an easy and safe way to give people money that would go to a good cause."
The money would be put into the Give Right-Dallas Fund, which would distribute donations to support programs, workforce readiness programs, and other nonprofits that provide services to the homeless.
The target areas include Deep Ellum and nearby Baylor University Medical Center, the Forest/Abrams area and Preston Center.
"This could improve the quality of life for people who come through the community courts program for panhandling," Johnson said.
Similar programs have been successfully implemented in Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Springfield, Missouri.
The city believes successful implementation in Dallas could reduce the number of panhandlers in target areas by approximately 70 percent. It estimates that the program could cut 911 calls for aggressive panhandling by 50 percent.
Keyes said it will be difficult not to roll down the window and give what little change he keeps, but given time he thinks people could make a change.
"Maybe when they get used to seeing an easy alternative they will do it differently," he said.
The Give Right-Dallas program will be presented to the city's Public Safety & Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, Nov. 13.