Visalia Tackles Homelessness

The city of Visalia, faith-based organizations and service providers are coming together to deal with the issue of homelessness in Visalia. A broad-based outreach plan kicks off this month with faith-based partners to discourage individuals from giving money to panhandlers with the “Change That Counts” campaign, urging support instead for those who help the homeless.

The campaign will use a variety of different mediums – a website, social media outlets, flyers, bus billboards and presentations – to encourage individuals to give their money to service providers to secure real help for the truly homeless.

“Many of us don’t know how to respond when we see a person on the street asking for money. We may feel sympathetic, intimidated, uncomfortable or even pressured to give,” said Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen.
“Giving money seems like a compassionate act and it may help people for the moment, but it often encourages destructive habits or stops them from seeking out help that could actually improve their lives. Instead, give your donation to those who help the homeless get off the streets and take steps to change their lives forever.”

Visalia Police Lt. Steven Phillips said it’s easy to confuse panhandlers with those who are truly homeless. “But, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, most panhandlers have places to live, and most homeless people do not panhandle.”

Homelessness is a communitywide problem, requiring communitywide involvement. Faith-based organizations will be involved in getting the message out to their congregations that change can come with their help. A variety of mediums will be used – from flyers to websites, social media and presentations with faith-based partners and service providers on the impact of panhandling and how to truly help the homeless.

In addition, a list of resources for the homeless is available on the city’s website with services for men, women and children who are homeless.

Outgoing Mayor Amy Shuklian and Code Enforcement Officer Tracy Robertshaw were featured on the November broadcast of “Visalia Today,” talking about steps the city has taken to deal with homelessness and related issues.

For more information on how you can give help those who help the homeless with your money, go to www.helpvisaliahomeless.com. An online list of service providers gives avenues of options for your donation. If your faith-based or service club organization or business is interested in assisting with this effort, contact Community Relations Manager Nancy Loliva at [email protected] or 713-4535.

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