Montgomery County Announces New Initiative to Discourage Donations to Panhandlers

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As reported by the Gazette, Montgomery County officials have announced a new initiative aimed at getting people to stop giving money to panhandlers and instead, give it to county programs designed to help the poor and homeless.  From the article:

People who want to help panhandlers can text SHARE to the number 80077 to donate $5 to the Community Foundation of Montgomery County, which helps coordinate charitable giving in the county.

Kim Ball, administrator of homeless services for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said her department goes out to try and interview panhandlers. Some agree and some refuse, and others just take the information the workers provide, Ball said.

Panhandling is a complex, complicated issue, said Susan Sinclair-Smith, executive director of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, who spoke at the press conference.

Montgomery County’s affluence, with a median household income listed by the U.S. Census Bureau of $95,660 from 2007-2011, adds to the problem.

“I think the disparities between rich and poor are even more stark here,” Sinclair-Smith said.

Most people feel compassion and a desire to help when they see someone struggling, she said.

But giving the person cash isn’t really the best way to help them; a county service might be, officials said.

“We know what works, so we just need to get people into the programs that work,” Sinclair-Smith said.