PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Gov) – Mayor Jim Kenney, city officials and representatives from Philadelphia’s private sector today announced text messaging as a way for people to donate money to support the homeless in Philadelphia as an alternative to giving money when approached by panhandlers.
Individuals with a desire to help the homeless can now text “Share” to 80077 to make a contribution of $5.00 to help support those who are living on the street. The donor will see their contribution reflected among the list of charges on their cell phone bill and the City will match their donation dollar for dollar and invest it in housing, jobs and services for the homeless
Liz Hersh, the Director of the Office of Homeless Services said, “this is about alternatives, other ways we can help those on the street through real solutions – housing, jobs and services. Quite simply, if our nonprofit providers have more volunteers and funds, they can reach more people.”
This initiative was developed by the Shared Public Spaces work group created last November by Mayor Kenney to ensure safety, respect and dignity for everyone living and visiting the city.
“I am pleased with the progress of this work group which brings together both the public and private sectors. This campaign will help us to expand the necessary services; housing, jobs and treatment that are needed to help combat the problem said Mayor Kenney.
A public education campaign will run throughout the summer featuring widespread public distribution of colorful two-sided palm cards carrying bold messages encouraging the public to “make your change count” by donating via text message directly to local programs and initiatives that provide housing and services to homeless people.
“Taking steps to address homelessness and aggressive panhandling is critical to ensuring that our vibrant public spaces offer a positive experience for everyone – both residents and visitors alike. Through public/private partnerships like Shared Spaces, it is our goal to ensure that support services and solutions are being offered to those impacted by homelessness and that real, systemic change can take root. By improving the overall fabric of our community we will make Philadelphia a more desirable place to live, work and visit” said Julie Coker Graham, President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB).
The Office of the Deputy Managing Director for Health and Human Services interviewed 129 persons found panhandling from November 2016 to January 2017. We learned that the motivation is money and that people treat panhandling like a job, showing up every day to the same place at the same times and earning an average of $20 a day. The demographics indicate that panhandling is strongly related to the Opioid crisis.
Anyone who is approached by a panhandler and does not feel safe as a result of the interaction is encouraged to call 911. Anyone who wishes to report the sighting of a homeless person in distress is encouraged to call Homeless Outreach day or night at 215-232-1984.