BOISE -- The city of Boise kicked off its citywide campaign against panhandling this week, coinciding with the busiest shopping week of the year.
The mayor's office said there's been an increase in people asking passers-by for money on the city's streets. The Have a Heart, Give Smart program aims to decrease panhandlers while still getting help to those who need it.
'No to panhandling, yes to giving'
With the new city campaign, you'll start seeing a pamphlet around town that reads, It's okay to say 'no' to panhandling, and 'yes' to giving .
Boise's always been a very generous and giving community. That's part of what makes Boise great. So this effort is to divert that giving, to make sure it still happens, but that it goes to the most effective ways possible, Adam Park with the City of Boise said.
The mayor's office wants people to consider donating to local shelters and charities instead of to people like Danny Kuster.
We've found many panhandlers don't necessarily use the money just for basic services. Or if they do, it's just for that night, and it's not for a real life change, Park said.
A panhandler's take on the campaign
Danny Kuster says he's been homeless since the summer when he stopped receiving hispension checks. He says he stays in shelters sometimes, but you'll also see him outside holding a sign that reads: Keep on smiling and a good day [sic].
Kuster said when people give him money, he uses it on personal hygiene items, food, and an occasional motel room. He said the city's new campaign is ridiculous , and he said though he uses local shelters sometimes, he benefits more when people give him money personally.
The campaign brochure reads, While panhandling is often associated with homelessness, many panhandlers are not homeless.
Kuster said he believes most panhandlers on the streets are homeless, particularly this time of year.
'No one wants to see them cold and hungry'
On the busiest shopping day of the year, KTVB asked shoppers if they give money to panhandlers.
From time to time. Especially when I see people with children. I mean, it's hard. No one wants to see them cold and hungry, Shopper Bob Nissim said.
Generally I just give food and stuff. Kindof stay away from the money because you never know what they're going to spend it on, Shopper Annie Winkle said.
Even though they each approach panhandlers a bit differently, both shoppers liked the idea of the Have a Heart, Give Smart campaign.
People are, they're having a hard time. You see them on the corners all over town. If there's a way to keep them off the streets, keep traffic moving, and still provide what they need, I think that's great, Nissim said.
Will it work?
This campaign will run for a year, though the city hopes private businesses will get on board and make it longer lasting.
The mayor's office hopes people will pick up the pamphlets, read them, and then pass them along to panhandlers so they can see where to get help.
The mayor's office did a pilot program at one downtown store this summer and reports a ten percent decrease in panhandling in that area.
Why would anyone that's not homeless stand out here in the cold? That just doesn't make sense, Kuster said.