In response to increased perception of panhandling, Downtown OKC approached the Homeless Alliance for assistance in 2005. Although research revealed that most panhandlers—almost 80% – were not actually homeless, the Homeless Alliance developed a plan to address the problem.
The result: an initiative that solves multiple problems.
- Some panhandlers are homeless and genuinely need help. We want to help them.
- Panhandlers may be seeking money to purchase drugs or alcohol. We want to show this group that we don’t support those behaviors in OKC.
- Residents of OKC are charitably minded. We need a way to help without enabling unhealthy behavior.
Here’s how it works: First, you purchase a book of 5 vouchers for $5. When approached by a panhandler, give them a voucher instead of $1.
Each voucher includes information on the downtown homeless shelters and a bus ticket to get there. If the person is truly in need the voucher is better than $1, and if not, the voucher isn’t very attractive.