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Salt Lake City officials: If a panhandler approaches you, just walk on by

First Published      Last Updated Jul 14 2017 07:55 am

If a panhandler approaches you on the street, just walk on by.

Giving to panhandlers enables them to continue to be an addict or an alcoholic for one more day.

That's the message from Salt Lake City and the Downtown Alliance business group, which launched a public awareness campaign Thursday aimed at curbing the sad and irksome practice that is commonplace in Utah's capital.

Four billboards will go up around downtown with slogans like, "Don't give money to panhandlers. Help them more by giving to service providers."

The billboards also advertise HelpSLC.org, a website that links would-be donors to various organizations that aid homeless people.




Organizers also are hopeful that television stations will air 15 second public service announcements that drive home the message: Money from panhandling ends up in the hands of international drug cartels.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said Thursday that panhandling has a negative impact on the community.

"The money collected does not improve lives," she said, "it endangers them."

But giving to service providers and community organizations does make a difference, the mayor noted.

"Salt Lake City is a place of hope," she said. "We never want that to change."

People, whether they are residents or visitors, often believe they are helping panhandlers, said Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance.

"But as soon as they get $20, they go to their dealer," he said, referring to the cost of one dose of heroin.

Giving to panhandlers keeps people from getting the help they need, added Utah Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

"Panhandling aids and abets lawlessness," he said. "It helps drug dealers who are preying on Utah's most vulnerable."

The new campaign is among a number of efforts aimed at cleaning up the chaos and lawlessness in the Rio Grande district around The Road Home shelter.

csmart@sltrib.com

 

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