San Rafael discourages panhandler donations

Bay Area

SAN RAFAEL (KRON) — The city of San Rafael wants to put an end to panhandler donations.

It has posted signage at panhandling hotspots in town — suggesting the public donate to charities instead.

This month, crews installed ten signs east of downtown near Highway 101, where Paul Smith walks along the sidewalk with a sign saying anything helps.

“Why would they discourage people from helping. Why?” So I have to go to their church in particular?” Smith said.

The signs include a phone number that goes to a voice message, providing information for donors on how they can help. It also includes information for panhandlers in need of assistance.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen a seven-percent decrease in homelessness in Marin,” Andrew Hening said. “A 28-percent reduction in chronic homelessness. So, we really are investing in the solutions and we want more people in the public to know.”

Hening is the city’s director of homeless planning. He said similar signs have been posted in other county cities, like Mill Valley.

He notes that although there are some safety concerns associated with panhandling, the main reasoning behind the signs is that the city is focused on long-term solutions to ending chronic homelessness.

“From some of our panhandling hotspots, you know, a couple blocks away, we have different services for mental health, health care, housing location, employment services,” Hening said. “So, there’s a lot of services if people want to take advantage of them.”

But Smith is reluctant, and skeptical.

“They don’t really help me up in there,” Smith said.

Hening said the city plans on eventually doubling the number of posted signs.

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