An educational poster campaign in Sudbury that offers advice on what to do when approached by a panhandler may perpetuate the assumption they spend the money they're given on alcohol and drugs, according to the head of a community service organization.

Kevin Serviss  — a former Sudbury police officer and now the executive director of The Samaritan Centre — said he’s seen the money used for more practical purposes.

The posters were created by the Greater Sudbury Police, Crime Stoppers, and the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area in response to ongoing complaints from businesses and shoppers alike.

"[There was] an issue yesterday with a father who has to go to Nova Scotia for the funeral of a loved one," Serviss said, "[He was] looking for money to get there."

Donate to community services instead

The posters warn people that panhandlers may spend the money on alcohol and drugs and recommend people avoid conversations with the them.

Serviss said the mention of drugs and alcohol may discourage those who donate a little from donating at all.

"I guess the danger in stating that in a poster is that it kind of stereotypes and generalizes," he said.

The executive director of the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Association said educating people about panhandling is key.

"If you want to donate and contribute, the most effective way will be to those organizations that are providing those services," Maureen Luoma said.

The poster campaign — which is a first for Sudbury — encourages people to donate to community services like the downtown Samaritan Centre, soup kitchen and the food bank.

"They need to know that there are alternatives for those in need," Luoma said. "So that if people feel the need to donate they know there are those services."

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The lower portion of the poster, which was cropped out of the top picture, due to online publishing restraints, refers to the assumption panhandlers may spend the money they're given on alcohol and drugs. (CBC)