“Save Shaw Ave.” video suggests money given panhandlers feeds addiction
Fresno officials want business owners to start using signage to discourage panhandling on their properties.
Mayor Lee Brand and Councilman Garry Bredefeld held a news conference Tuesday to revive the “Help Us Help Fresno” initiative that failed to pass the Fresno City Council last week.
Bredefeld said he was pushing forward with the signs despite opposition from his fellow council members, some of whom asked for more time to consider the proposal. He said the plan to make the signs available to private property owners was innocuous.
“When people give to panhandlers on street corners, they are helping them continue their substance abuse, to continue scamming. They’re keeping them in that lifestyle,” Bredefeld said after classifying panhandlers into three categories: the truly homeless, people with addictions and those who find panhandling profitable.
Business owners would pay for the signs themselves at a cost of $60-$65. Bredefeld said his office will help facilitate the purchases. The signs are made by a private company and feature the phone number for the Fresno Rescue Mission on the bottom.
Brand said the signs are part of a larger citywide effort to stem panhandling and reach people in need of support services.
“These signs are not meant to be a solution to homelessness,” Brand said. “We need to encourage people to redirect their generosity to organizations who are better equipped to help.”
District 2 candidates all in support
Brand and Bredefeld were joined by the four candidates for the vacant Distinct 2 seat – Michael Karbassi, Lawrence Garcia, Jared Gordon and Debbie Hunsaker – who said they supported the plan.
Bredefeld said any of the potential replacements for former councilman Steve Brandau (now a county supervisor) would be a key vote in ushering in a new Help Us Help Fresno initiative after the election.
As the District 2 candidates were leaving the news conference, they spoke to Homeless in Fresno advocate Desiree Martinez who asked them to reconsider their support of the proposal, and their understanding of how difficult it can be to obtain services.
“Why do you think it’s easier for some people to stand on the street corner and ask for food than take a bus to one of the places that are giving it out?” Martinez told them. “If I’m way on the northside, how am I going to get to the Poverello House, three times a day, to get food?”
Arias: It’s politics
Councilman Miguel Arias, who voted against the measure, said the move by Brand and Bredefeld is more about scoring a political victory than making community improvements. Arias initially supported the initiative, but said that after hearing from constituents, he reconsidered.
Arias added that signs on some private businesses would not curb panhandling where it’s most prevalent, such as street corners and intersections. Additionally, the move could push more people to street corners that see the most panhandling already.
“We don’t want different policies north of Shaw than south of Shaw,” Arias said.
Still, he said would be open to a future initiative to install signs citywide, after improvements are made, such as translating the signs into other languages, and after additional homeless shelters open.