Houston Community News >> If You Give Money to Panhandlers, Houston Mayor Wants you to Stop

8/20/2006 Houston-- The word is getting out on the streets and on the air about a plan to drive panhandlers off of the roads. The call to stop contributing to street solicitors is being heard loud and clear.

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"Today we're actually looking for street solicitors," said Don Hall with the Search Homeless Project. They drive the streets looking for people who live on the streets. “We try and find homeless people, and then we try and get them engaged in services,” But now they’re also engaging people on the streets with a message.

“Well see, the mayor’s supposed to do this thing where he does these television commercials and buy signs and whatnot, and says, ‘don’t give to people on the street. ..." Hall told homeless Houstonian Jack Hamons.

If you give money to panhandlers, Houston’s mayor wants you to stop. In commercials that will air on TV and the radio, Mayor Bill White will encourage people to instead donate to social service agencies. “We want to give people real change and not just spare change,” Mayor White said. “People shouldn’t give to people soliciting on the streets. That’s dangerous and is not good for our community.”

Panhandlers caught walking in the streets will probably see tougher law enforcement in the near future. Houston’s municipal court system has already begun holding special court sessions for the homeless, allowing them to work off warrants with community service.

“Warrants build up, and people do get paralyzed in that, if they have five or six tickets and there’s $200 bonds per ticket, they may not do anything about it,” Judge Berta Mejia said. Social workers who help the homeless hope the new initiative will drive panhandlers into programs that help the homeless.

“I want off the streets myself,” Hamons said. “I don’t like it out here, hot in the summer and cold in the winter.” The commercials featuring the mayor will be paid for with private funds. Mayor White sent out a fund-raising letter earlier this summer.

Drivers should begin hearing the commercials Monday.

(Contributed by Doug Miller)