AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s a program designed to make panhandling less profitable.
“I had a cat walk down to my house. I fed him one day, and then, back again. It’s pretty much like panhandling. If you give them some money, they’re going to come back,” said Commissioner Bobby Williams.
City leaders are now discussing the “Give Change that Counts” proposal, which would be a $25,000 public educational campaign to direct motorists not to give money to panhandlers and to instead donate it to a nonprofits helping the needy.
“Educate people to give the money directly to those who are panhandling because all you do is perpetuate the problem,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Brandon Garrett.
Augusta is borrowing this idea from Savannah, where the city will create a new website with links to different nonprofits to allow the public to decide where to donate.
“They’ll click on a hyperlink, and they’ll go directly to that organization and give their money directly to them,” said Danielle Hayes, the city Public Information Manager.
“Anything we can do to address panhandling without leaning on law enforcement to criminalize needs, so to speak, is a good thing,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.
But some commissioners say the program needs to be a companion to new a new ordinance banning panhandling even after the city Law Department warned it would be unconstitutional.
“We’re interpreting things the wrong way within our Law Department when it comes to this ordinance, and I’m not quite sure why,” said Garrett.
The city Administrative Services committee voted to send the issue to the full commission next week without a recommendation for it or against it.