Fort Lauderdale commissioners really don’t want residents giving money to the homeless, angering advocates by spending a reported $26,350 on a campaign to urge people to donate to shelters instead.
In an effort to end panhandling, commissioners are suggesting residents and visitors give to the United Way of Broward, the Broward Partnership for the Homeless and similar nonprofits that reach out to the homeless, the Sun Sentinel reports. Signs reading "Panhandling: Don’t contribute to the problem, Contribute to the solution" will soon line the streets as well as splash across taxis, police message boards, banners, social media, information cards, public service announcements and more.
According to the program’s outreach plan, panhandling contributes to “drug and alcohol abuse, violent crime, harassment and intimidation, distracted drivers and dangerous intersections.” The commission is also concerned with the growing number of homeless making public parks their home, deterring families from visiting.
“Families don’t feel safe, people going to the library don’t feel safe, people wanting to use public resources don’t feel safe,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler told CBS Miami.
Others, however, say the campaign likes the homeless to animals.
"The images speak for themselves. They're a sham, a mockery, a dereliction of everything a society should stand for," wrote HuffPost blogger Nathan Patches Pim, a Florida organizer with Food Not Bombs who told the Broward New Times: "It's like having a 'Don't Feed the Animals' sign for people. As usual, they're spending money on the exact opposite of what they should be focusing on."
Fort Lauderdale has previously taken steps to control its homeless population. In December, it launched the Homeless Reunification Program to give any homeless who wanted to return home a one-way bus ticket. The $25,000 set aside for it was paid for by money confiscated from criminals.
The program has been used in other cities, including St. Petersburg and New York City, and has come under fire as well.
"It doesn't solve the problem," homeless advocate G.W. Rolle told the St. Petersburg Times. "It just moves it around."