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Anti-Panhandling Campaign Begins For Uptown Charlotte

http://66.225.205.104/JR20111202.mp3

"On the street, real change doesn't come from your pocket." That message will soon be on posters around Uptown Charlotte. Center City Partners President Michael Smith launched the education initiative at the nonprofit's board meeting yesterday. He says panhandlers are proliferating Uptown and most of them are not homeless. "They're down on their luck, they do need this money, they may be underemployed, but what you're doing is you're enabling them," said Smith. "So thus the campaign." Charlotte's homeless services groups and shelters are on board with the plan. Notecards with information about homeless resources will be distributed in Uptown restaurants and businesses. The campaign encourages people to hand a beggar one of those cards instead of cash. Urban Ministry Center executive director Dale Mullennix says restaurants are fueling the problem by distributing leftovers to the homeless out their backdoors. "They're being very compassionate, but again it's about strategy," says Mullennix. "If they would give that food to the Community Food Rescue then that organization is going to make sure that food gets to all the organizations where people are being fed on a regular basis where the meal is connected to providing the services that these people need to get out of their homelessness." Those services include rent assistance, medical care, substance abuse counseling and help applying for various government aid programs. The Charlotte Center City Partners initiative also aims to refine the city's ordinance prohibiting panhandling. CMPD reports petty crime has increased downtown in connection with panhandlers. The latest estimate puts Mecklenburg County's homeless population at more than 3,500 men and women.