The city of Visalia, in collaboration with faith-based, service provider and business community partners launched an awareness campaign December 1st entitled “Change That Counts – Help 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 provide real help to 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.”
To compliment their Change that Counts campaign, the Visalia City Council voted on December 3rd to amend the Aggressive Solicitation Ordinance to prohibit panhandling in public and retail parking lots during daytime hours. Currently, asking people for money isn’t allowed after dark under Visalia’s existing ordinance. The Community Development Department recommended that the ordinance be changed to also include the day time. The definition of “solicitation” in the ordinance is any request made in person seeking an immediate donation of money or other item of value.
Passive solicitation using a sign or other indications to ask for donations without actually approaching people is still allowed. So are solicitations concerning emergency vehicle repairs or vehicle towing. Aggressive pan handlers would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for each subsequent offense.
Council Member Amy Shuklian was strongly in favor of the new ordinance but was wondering how it would be enforced. Nelsen also expressed his concerns over the ability to enforce the new ordinance. “Are we going to enforce it or does it just look good on paper?” Tracy Robertshaw, code enforcement officer, responded that if you encounter an aggressive panhandler, call the police. Shuklian recommended that the caller be observant because when the police show up they are going to want a detailed description of the panhandler.
Council Member Warren Gubler was encouraged by the new ordinance and the city’s campaign saying that there are better ways to help people than hand over money. Robertshaw agreed, saying that Visalians are a very caring community but that giving the money to an organization is a better way to give.
Nelsen said that some of the panhandlers are not homeless so you really don’t know who you are giving your money to. The city’s new program will get the money to those who really need it.
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, please contact Community Relations Manager Nancy Loliva at [email protected] or call (559) 713-4535.
The following is a list of organizations that accept donations and help the homeless in Visalia and Tulare County.
Visalia Emergency Aid – 217 N.E. 3rd St, Visalia (559) 732-0101
Visalia Rescue Mission – 322 NE First Ave, Visalia (559) 740-4178
VASH Program – 1-877-424-3838
THP Plus (Aspiranet) – (559)741-7358
San Joaquin Valley Veterans – (559)584-8100
Samaritan Center – 200 NW 3rd Ave, Visalia (559) 733-7331
Family Services – (559) 741-7310 or (559) 732-7371 to volunteer
Family HealthCare Network Dental Service location: 501 N. Bridge St., Visalia
Bethlehem Center – 1638 N. Dinuba Blvd., Visalia Phone: (559) 734-1572
Center for Independent Living (CIL) – (559) 622-9276
Central California Legal Services – (559) 733-8770
Central Valley Recovery Services – 320 W. Oak Ave Suite A, Visalia (559) 625-2995