Mayor Greg Mengarelli and the Prescott City Council have begun the “Change for the Better” initiative to alleviate homelessness and panhandling in the city. The initiative contains several elements that will work in conjunction with the city’s existing aggressive soliciting ordinance and will attempt to reduce homelessness and discourage panhandling. It will do this by encouraging people to donate to local charitable organizations and includes the following:
- A marketing campaign to encourage residents and visitors to donate to the “Change for the Better” initiative, with the proceeds being shared among local service providers and used to further the initiative, instead of giving directly to panhandlers. The marketing will include print media, social media, radio, flyers, signage, and outreach to businesses.
- Donation collection boxes at local businesses, service providers, and faith-based organizations to encourage people to donate rather than give money on the street
- 4 collection meters around the downtown to accept loose change to support local service providers
- A partnership with the Coalition for Compassion and Justice (CCJ) on a work program to provide opportunities for those who choose to work rather than panhandle
- Creation of an ambassador program in the downtown to provide hospitality and information to visitors, be the eyes and ears on the street, and provide information on available resources to the homeless and panhandlers
- Use of architectural features near downtown sidewalks, street corners, and benches to discourage panhandling in certain areas
Because of the overwhelming generosity in the community, there are many services provided to obtain food, shelter, and basic items for those in need. When money is donated to a reputable organization, it can be trusted that the money will be used to provide basic needs and services to those lacking; but when money is given on the street, there is no accountability for how that money is used.
Mayor Greg Mengarelli stated, “Having heard from many citizens about this issue I decided it was time to take action by implementing a few simple steps that are compassion-based while collaborating with local service providers. I am confident that these initiatives will have a positive impact on assisting those who truly need it,” he said. “I don’t see homelessness and panhandling as a major problem for our city at this time, but these initiatives will help ensure that it never becomes one.”