Councilmember George Leventhal and County Executive Ike Leggett have joined representatives from homeless advocates, grassroots social service agencies, the faith community and County Police to launch a joint public education campaign to address panhandling in Montgomery County.
The theme of the program is: “Give a Hand Up. Not a Hand Out.”
“Panhandling is not safe and giving cash to panhandlers doesn’t help them,” said Councilmember Leventhal, who chairs the Council Health & Human Services Committee.
“We all know the feeling. We want to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We feel guilty. We all want to help. The question isn’t whether to help – it’s how. That’s why Montgomery County government is joining together with homeless advocates and social service providers throughout the County to urge you to give a hand-up, not a hand-out.
“Those who work daily with panhandlers in homeless advocacy and other social service groups know that most panhandlers use the money they collect to support their addictions – drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. None of that helps panhandlers to solve their problems.”
County Executive Leggett said: “I hear a lot from County residents who are concerned about the proliferation of panhandlers at intersections throughout the County. I agree that the status quo is unacceptable. Even though panhandling is legal under the First Amendment and Maryland law, it is not a safe thing to do and giving cash to panhandlers doesn’t help.
“By texting ‘SHARE’ on your cell phone to 80077 you will contribute to grassroots efforts throughout the County to make sure people get the food, shelter, health care and help solving their problems that will make a real difference.”
The County Office of Public Information is coordinating efforts that will include messages on RideOn buses, public service announcements, signs in County facilities, email and listserve messages, a new web site, social media and other outreach designed to spread the word.
“We want to give these folks the help they need, but the way to do it is not to give them cash on the street,” said Police Chief Tom Manger. “The way to do it is to donate that money to organizations that help. Panhandling in the roadway is dangerous and causes distractions for drivers. If you want to see the panhandling issue go away, stop giving money to panhandlers.”
For more information on the initiative, go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/panhandling.