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Local Leaders Launch Aggressive Campaign Against Panhandling

Whittney Evans

State and local leaders have launched a new campaign to curb panhandling, and it doesn’t mince words.

The campaign includes window clings, billboards and 15-second PSA’s that say things like “Support panhandlers and you support alcoholism,” and “Support panhandlers and you support crime.” And they urge people who are tempted to give to service providers instead.

“Money given to panhandlers is not for food. It’s not for a bus ticket and it’s not to help a child,” says Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biksupski. She says panhandling feeds drug habits and other destructive behaviors that keep people them from getting the help they need. And those truly in need of food have numerous opportunities to eat throughout the day at places like St. Vincent’s and the Salt Lake Mission.

The Downtown Alliance raised $25,000 privately for the campaign. Executive Director Jason Mathis says the language is in your face and aggressive.

“We want to get people’s attention and let them know about the direction link between giving money to panhandlers and encouraging drug trafficking in our community,” Mathis says.

The campaign goes hand in hand with a new law that prohibits panhandling on roadways. Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes supported the legislation.

“You’re not to stop your breaks and hand someone money out the window,” Hughes says. “If the light’s green and you are trying to go, accidents are occurring. These intersections are not places of commerce.”

The group is urging people who would like to give money to go to or give to individual service providers. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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