BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President’s Office is trying to find a solution to panhandling.
Signs are popping up around town, specifically near places where people usually ask for money or food.
The signs have a pretty blunt message: “Your generosity could lead to a fatality.”
Urging residents to “Help the needy” and to “donate to local charities.”
The Mayor’s Homelessness Prevention Coalition is working to end homelessness in Baton Rouge, but they want you to think twice before opening up your pocketbooks in a traditional manner.
“So, signage was a part of it (coalition). To ensure that they (residents) were intricately involved in the process in supporting and assisting the homeless in a new and direct way,” Said Dr. Pamela Ravare-Jones, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer in the City-Parish of Baton Rouge.
Some of the signs went up around Christmas and more will go up over time.
“We’re placing our signs very strategically, in some of the main traffic areas where we know concerns have come to the city, where visibly we have seen panhandling take place on a more aggressive platform,” said Dr. Ravare-Jones.
Ravare-Jones says one goal of the homelessness prevention coalition, is to make the distinction between homelessness and aggressive panhandling across the Red Stick.
“So, with the opportunity to give to the nonprofits, who assist with homeless individuals, we can assure that the funding is going into the right place, to support and help those that are in most need in our communities,” said Ravare-Jones.
But there is one issue already with the new signs.
They have the wrong website address.
“We’re moving forward and making sure that is taken care of,” said Ravare-Jones.
She says in the coming months, there will be several signs going from College Drive all the way to Millerville Road.
“It is safer to give to an organization, because we are a nonprofit organization. And the services that we provide, we provide those services through different grants and donations and things like that,” said Erika Belvin, with Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge.
Belvin’s organization Volunteers of America is one of the many local members of the mayor’s Homelessness Prevention Coalition. Volunteers of America helps the less fortunate in our area in so many ways, but also gives them resources to get back on their feet.
“You have to realize with homelessness it’s always a bigger issue with, a lot of our homeless consumers that we serve. They might have mental health issues, they might have substance abuse, so our case management is able to address those issues. Because it’s not going to help if you just put them in somewhere to stay without addressing those core issues and we’re able to do that,” said Belvin.
The Mayor’s office will fix the typos on the few signs that are already up.
But there could be more than 50 new signs going up in the coming months, in areas where the city-parish sees a lot of aggressive panhandling.
The city-parish will also be putting up additional signs to warn people to not litter as well.
The Mayor’s Homelessness Prevention Coalition (HPC) announced the rollout of goals during their fall meeting.
Coalition members have led stakeholder workgroups to provide the list of goals for 2021:
- Developing a Capacity Database – Real-time Inventory of Available Social Services
- Increasing City-wide Outreach and Case Management
- Identifying Additional Transitional and Permanent Affordable Housing
- Development of a Community Homelessness Educational Campaign
- Addressing Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) and Reentry Approaches
- Increasing Behavioral Health Training for Public Entities and Groups
- Creation of a Panhandling Taskforce
- Establishing a Peer-to-Peer Homeless Mentoring Program
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