Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308
Monday, September 4, 2017 at 2 p.m.
They call it “Flying the Sign”. A way for people who find themselves in need to collect enough money to make it through another day living on Spokane streets.
Now, there’s a new sign going up at some of our busier intersections. One that urges well-intentioned motorists to “Give Real Change.”
Jonathan Mallahan of the City of Spokane’s Neighborhood & Business Services says, “Spokane is a compassionate city and we’re full of compassionate people who want to make a difference. So what we’re trying to do is help them to give to the agencies that are making changes that put people in permanent housing and change their lives for the better.”
The Mayor and Council direct more than $12 million a year toward homeless services and are continuing to increase that amount, but feel more can be done.
Donating money to the agencies that help people end their crisis of experiencing homelessness is as easy as calling 311.
Those who need help themselves can call 211.
“2-1-1 is a wonderful, one-call service that helps people who find themselves in need so they can access those things that can get them off the street and into housing,” Mallahan explained.
These new signs urging drivers to “Give Real Change” instead of giving to people on the curb will go up across the City in areas identified by police as panhandling hot spots.
People flying the sign is now a city-wide problem and a contributing force behind litter and crime problems in those areas. But Mallahan doesn’t blame people for wanting to help the homeless. That’s because 80 percent of them used to have homes in “our” neighborhoods.
“We had a place. We had a job and everything. Then he lost his job and we lost our place and it’s been one thing after the other,” said a woman named Abby.
Abby flies a cardboard sign on the lower South Hill while her four- year- old daughter tries to keep herself entertained. Abby says without panhandling it’s hard to care for for Kenzie. “Ok the possibility we may have to find a place to sleep or we may not have anything to eat other than the meals downtown,” Abby warns.
So motorist face a tough choice when they’re confronted with real homelessness. But City officials insist handing over money to individuals is not the best answer.
Mallahan contends, “People, in their desire to be compassionate and give to those who are suffering, can sometimes fuel habits that don’t help individuals so this is an option for people to give to the agencies that they can be sure are going to spend those dollars to help people make positive changes.