'Want to help people in need?': San Rafael posts signs to curb panhandling

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- In an effort to curb panhandling, the city of San Rafael posted 10 signs on Tuesday that shows a hand giving change to another hand, with a red cross through it.

At the top it says 'Want to help people in need?' and at the bottom, there's a phone number.

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Director of Homeless Planning & Outreach for the city of San Rafael, Andrew Hening, says these signs are the third version of their 'panhandling awareness campaign.' The first version was the installment of purple meters downtown in 2016. Change from the meters goes towards an organization called the Downtown Streets Team, that give non-cash stipends to homeless participants. He says the meters generate around $2,000 a year.

"Over the last two years, we've reduced chronic homelessness as a community by about 28%. And in San Rafael, we saw a 30% reduction in unsheltered homelessness," Hening said. He says they want to get the word out that there's a way to get involved in a more productive way.

"I think for a lot of people, they're only real interaction with this issue is driving to work or driving home and then they see someone panhandling and I know it can feel very discouraging that well- nothing's really changing. So the sign itself is just explicitly saying, please give inside, don't give on the street to people asking for money," Hening said.

As for the hotline posted at the bottom of the sign, it has a dual purpose.

"There's a hotline number we've created so people can call, so if they're actually looking for help they can get help, but also for the public if they want to get involved they can find out how to get involved," Hening said.

Some think these signs go too far.

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ABC7 News spoke with one man who goes by the name 'Mike' and says it's within the law to panhandle.

"It is a constitutional right to panhandle - it's a constitutional right to travel," Mike said.

Debbie Dueñas is from Fairfax but comes to San Rafael often. She said she appreciates the sign as a reminder to get involved or donate to charities, but she'll make that decision on whether to hand out money or not.

"That's a good reminder and I do give money to nonprofits but other times I'm going to make that decision for myself," Dueñas said.

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