Alexandria, La. (Oct. 18, 2019) — The Alexandria Police Department and the Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition, along with the assistance of Kinetix design services, are working together to launch an educational campaign to address the high number of panhandlers in the city.
In August, Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey Hall announced eight strategic priorities the administration planned to address. One of those priorities was to assess and update policies, ordinances and procedures for addressing complaints related to panhandling.
“We want to ensure people are not taking advantage of the kindness of our residents and we want to help homeless members of our community have more and clearer opportunities to get back on their feet,” Hall explained when the priorities were announced.
“Experience has shown many of the individuals standing on street corners asking for money are not homeless,” explained Alexandria Police Chief Jerrod King. “From a Constitutional standpoint, it is not illegal to ask people for money. And if these individuals truly are in need of help we don’t want to arrest them, we want to find ways to help them.”
That’s where the Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition and Kinetix are stepping in to help. They have designed a pocket-sized card of community resources that police officers and volunteers can distribute to area panhandlers. “The important thing is to make sure that individuals in need are aware of and have access to local resources,” explained Joseph Buzzetta, executive director of the Central Louisiana Homeless Coalition. “These cards have contact numbers for our homeless resource center on Jackson Street as well as the Volunteers of America. We also list the Family Justice Center for domestic violence victims, the Hope House and Salvation Army for those in need of short-term shelter and Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services for those in need of HIV or AIDS support.”
Starting the week of October 21, Alexandria Police officers will begin distributing the cards to individuals panhandling within the city. “We need to get these people off of the streets,” King said. “On one hand, it creates a potential safety hazard as they interact with traffic. And on the other, if someone truly needs help, we need to get them this information so they can get the help they need from the trained professionals we have in the area. But if they are just looking for a handout, they need to move on and not be trying to take advantage of the charity of passing drivers.”
Buzzetta agreed, adding it is important to educate the public as well as the panhandlers. “We have a number of great social services programs in Central Louisiana that can help individuals in need, whether it is because they are homeless or dealing with domestic violence issues or have some other crisis in their life,” Buzzetta said. “And those organizations need donations and support from the community to provide help to meet the demand for those services. I realize it is tempting to stop and give someone asking for money a donation to cut out the middle man, but often that person uses the money for things other than food or shelter and it stops them from coming in to get the treatment they need.”
Instead, he said, donors should give that money to a non-profit organization that specializes in outreach. “The truth is we need more programs than we have in order to meet the various needs of our homeless community,” Buzzetta said. “When you donate to a local charitable support organization you give us the ability to create programs that increase our homeless community’s access to food, shelter, counseling, or other support services that they might need. You can count on those dollars being used to get these individuals the help they so desperately need and see the impact that your donations make.”
Kinetix, an Alexandria business technology and integrated marketing company, is donating the design and printing of the information cards.