Spokane hopes you'll 'Give Real Change' to help panhandlers

Spokane hopes you'll 'Give Real Change' to help panhandlers

SPOKANE, Wash. - The City of Spokane would like you to think twice about giving money to panhandlers as, beginning Thursday, the Downtown Spokane Partnership kicks off a month-long campaign asking people to find other ways to help the less fortunate.

When panhandlers sit at the corner of Freya and Second Avenue in East Spokane 'flying the sign' as they call it there's a lot of money to be made. One man said he can make up to $90 an hour.

Well now there's a new sign you'll see around town that urges you to "Give Real Change" as in, give your money to the charitable organizations that can help these people get off the street for good.

You're probably not surprised that a lot of your generous curbside donations end up as beer money but what's a little more enlightening is just how lucrative it can be.

"I just write on the sign whatever works. Need help, God bless, hold it up, fly my signs and make 90 bucks an hour," former panhandler Joe Johnson said.

Johnson was able to get off the alcohol at the street thanks to the Union Gospel Mission. He says roadside handouts only delayed getting the help he needed.

"I had to give up all my old drinking buddies, all of my old friends and come here to this place and go through the rehab program here," he explained.

The "Give Real Change" campaign is trying to redirect the flow of money from the curb to the agencies that can help get panhandlers off the street for good. Former panhandler Tavis White says Spokane area residents are generous to a fault and inadvertently bankrolling a host of problems like litter and people who are dangerously drunk.

"What I'd support are organizations like the Union Gospel Mission, Goodwill, Salvation Army. they are more geared toward long term recovery of lifestyle, long term recovery of self worth just helping communities out in positive ways," he said.

So you are going to see a lot more of the "Give Real Change" campaign in the coming month, including at downtown businesses and in your next utility bill.

For more information on the Real Change program click here