- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — A downtown business group has begun a campaign to encourage people to give money to help the homeless at central sites, rather than donating directly to panhandlers on the streets.

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s “Make a Change” campaign will place boxes in indoor public places and businesses, such as stores, hotels and tourist attractions.

The idea is for people to put spare change in the boxes, with the money collected going to Baltimore Homeless Services Inc., a quasi-public agency that provides services to homeless people.

Several of the people who ask for money on downtown streets are not actually homeless, or will use the money to feed addictions or other negative behavior, said Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership.

Generally, donors give money because of guilt, empathy or intimidation, he said.

“With regards to guilt and empathy, we believe this strategy could make a difference, just so people know their money might be better served going to an entity like Baltimore Homeless Services,” Mr. Fowler said.

Some advocates for the homeless argue campaigns to discourage panhandling serve no other purpose than to assuage the fears of tourists.

“Programs like that have been tried in other communities, and they generally don’t work,” said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “Panhandling is part of our urban environment.”

In Baltimore, panhandling at night, unless done passively by simply holding a sign, is illegal.

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