A Redding group trying to combat a growing panhandling problem is under attack tonight. Homeless advocates say a new plan unfairly targets Redding’s homeless population. In response, they are calling for a boycott of local businesses.
A local group of merchants say they want to help homeless by giving to organizations instead of panhandlers, but protesters say the plan won’t work.
Only two people gathered Tuesday to boycott a group of merchants behind an anti-panhandling campaign.
“Well we don’t believe that the ‘Handouts Don’t Help’ campaign paints the homeless in a positive light,” said Chris Solberg of the Redding Coalition for the Homeless.
Launched last week, the ‘Handouts Don’t Help’ campaign asks residents to give money to local services instead of people on the street.
“A lot of times you just don't know where that money goes,” said Lisa Jeter, a local business owner.
“If we could take that money and divert it back to these programs and agencies, then as a community, we would be better off,” said Ed Rullman, leader of the ‘Handouts Don’t Help’ campaign, and General Manager at C.R. Gibbs, where the protest was held.
But protesters say those services aren't adequate, and panhandlers deserve money.
“I think there is more money given out now than before because we have light shining on the thing,” said Earl Alan Boek, a homeless advocate.
“They do need to purchase food, they need to purchase drinks, they need to purchase gasoline,” said Solberg, who lead the protest. He points to people like panhandler Ben Dixon who is trying to make it home to Colorado.
“I got here, I ran out of provisions, my car broke down twice, I am completely broke,” said Dixon.
But leader of the Rullman counters with, "Why should we pay his way home?"
“Panhandlers really take money out of the community that is trying to solve a problem,” said Rullman, adding that panhandlers are bad for business.
“If a customer feels scared or threatened, they are going to go to another store,” said Rullman.
“Very few are out here abusing folks by panhandling,” said Solberg.
Panhandling is protected by the constitution so it cannot be outlawed.
The Redding Merchant Crime Watch group hopes if people no longer give money to panhandlers, they will go somewhere else.