The early reviews for Dallas' "End Panhandling Now" program are in and they aren't good. Not Battlefield Earth bad, but not good. It's going to take more than $400,000 and a Frogger-themed public service announcement, it seems, to stop people from hustling downtown residents for change and connect them with city and nonprofit services.
In February 2018, the City Council agreed to put up the cash for a combination public awareness campaign and intervention program to take on panhandling. The idea was to educate the public about why they shouldn't hand their spare change to anyone who asks and to put together teams of city employees to get those who ask for change the help they need. Neither prong of the plan has been successful, Jessica Galleshaw, director of the city's Office of Community Care, said Monday.
"The feedback was not necessarily positive," Galleshaw said of public reaction to the city's PSAs and web ads. "It tended to generate mixed feedback and oftentimes even some negative feedback and commentary."
Less than 8 percent of the ZIP code-targeted emails sent to Dallas residents by the city even got opened, Galleshaw said.
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The reaction from the panhandlers singled out for intervention by the city might have been even worse. In almost a year, only 21 people were willing to accept the city's help. The lack of response, both from the public and Dallas' panhandlers, is likely to spell doom for "End Panhandling Now."
"I just don't feel like this program is working," North Dallas City Council member Sandy Greyson said. "We've put a lot of money into this. We're up to more than $400,000 now to try and make this campaign work. The results today are 21 people who've agreed to try and work with us and try to change the panhandling life that they've been living. I don't think that's adequate results for the kind of money we're spending."
The committee's chairman, Adam McGough, agreed with Greyson that city staff needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan.