The Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce is rolling out an educational campaign to address the problem of panhandling, in cooperation with the Salvation Army in Decatur and DOVE, Inc., and supported by The United Way of Decatur and Mid-Illinois, Macon County Continuum of Care, The Macon County Sheriff’s Office and The Decatur Police Department.
The campaign’s focus is to raise awareness that giving money to panhandlers DOES NOT help them. This has been the consistent message from social service agencies as well as from law enforcement. Many businesses and organizations will have posters in their windows and doors with this simple theme: If you feel compelled to help, give your donation to The Salvation Army, DOVE Inc., or any of the great social service agencies in our community. Do not give money to panhandlers. The message will also be distributed throughout social media.
The Chamber has chosen to pursue this campaign because their mission statement makes it clear: to provide advocacy and leadership to strengthen education, community image and local business. “Almost every business owner in and near downtown has had problems with panhandlers disturbing customers. Some businesses have lost customers because of aggressive panhandlers that frequent certain areas. More recently, the panhandling problem has spread far past downtown into almost every area of the community. Grocery store parking lots, intersections of main streets, movie theaters, gas stations and car washes have become popular spots for panhandling” said Miranda Rothrock, President of the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce.
Christine Gregory, the Executive Director of DOVE, Inc., says this: “If a person has turned to manipulative entrepreneurship as a way of earning money, they need help. Cash often does harm by encouraging individuals to disengage, and supporting habits which are harmful. What we know from experience is that comprehensive case management and one on one human interaction to help identify and overcome barriers really helps people.”
Decatur is a community known for its generosity. The Chamber is confident that this campaign will add another platform of communication to reinforce the efforts of law enforcement and social service agencies, continuing to help people understand that their generosity needs to be directed to the charities where those dollars will truly help the homeless and needy. Additional posters may be obtained by contacting the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce at 422-2200 or by emailing Rollanda.firstname.lastname@example.org.