New panhandling plan in New Bedford: Donate to online charity instead

A new plan aimed at curbing panhandling in New Bedford is encouraging people to donate to charity on-line instead of handing cash out the car window. (WJAR)

A new plan aimed at curbing panhandling in New Bedford is encouraging people to donate to charity online instead of handing cash out the car window.

The city put up signs this week at four intersections that are popular with panhandlers.

The signs tell drivers to change the way they give and to donate to a local charity that supports homeless shelters and assistance programs.

Kevin Rioux stood on the median on Route 6 Thursday, near one of those signs, trying to collect money.

“Simple reason. There’s no work out here,” he told NBC 10 News. “You got a guy like myself that worked 32 years of my life. And now I have to resolve to this.”

Homeless, Rioux said he’s been panhandling for three weeks. He pulled gift cards to Subway and Cumberland Farms from his pocket.

“That’s my meal for the next couple of nights,” he said.

Rioux said he is OK with the signs meant to discourage panhandlers like himself, but wonders where the money goes.

“Are you going to put us up or do we still have to stay out in the woods?” he asked.

Backers of the plan say the money donated to the website on the signs, Rise Up For Homes, will help the local homeless population.

“If you really truly want to help, then this is one of the ways to help. Stop just giving people money,” said the Rev. David Lima, who heads the city’s Homeless Service Providers Network.

Lima said people who give cash on the street may just be funding a panhandler’s drug or alcohol addiction. He argues the new plan is a better solution.

“We know they’re not going to all of a sudden stop panhandling. We have no illusion of that. But we do know that if we can educate the public, if you really want to give, give to something that’s going to help,” Lima told NBC 10.

Others shared similar sentiments.

“There’s no real avenue of success by standing on the corner,” added City Council member Hugh Dunn.

“This is a more compassionate way to reduce panhandling.”

Dunn, who also pushed for the new signs, hopes the plan encourages panhandlers to seek services.

“It’s really a positive, showing that we do care and that we’re going to provide for the services that can help them,” Dunn said.

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