Anti-panhandling campaign launched in Edmonton

A new campaign is launched in Edmonton to try to persuade people not to give money to panhandlers.

A new campaign launched in Edmonton on Tuesday encourages people to say no to panhandlers.

Edmonton panhandler Allan Galliz says he doesn't need food so much as money for a rental damage deposit. ((CBC))

The campaign, dubbed "Have a Heart — Give Smart,"  is a joint effort between the city, local business groups and social service agencies.

For the next 10 weeks, street teams using a Smart car as a mobile donation unit will patrol downtown, Old Strathcona and Callingwood.

People who donate money will get a granola bar, which they can either eat or give to a panhandler.

All donations go the Boyle Street Community Services and the Bissell Centre.

Panhandler Allan Galliz said he makes about $30 in an average day, but he's not on the street because he's starving, so granola bars won't help him.

"There's other reasons why I'm doing it, like what the sign says: I need a damage deposit and everything because I'm trying to move out of this place that's full of bed bugs," Galliz told CBC News.

Kathy Barnhart, manager of the city's neighbourhood and community development department, said while Edmontonians want to help others, giving money to panhandlers can do more harm than good.

"You may be supporting a drug or an alcohol addiction. You may be discouraging individuals from accessing the resources that can help them improve their quality of life," Barnhart said.

"Giving money may also encourage panhandlers to concentrate in specific areas where they might get more money, but they could eventually become involved with the police."

Barnhart said social agencies are better equipped to take donations and can do more with the money people give.