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Pilot program aimed at ending panhandling coming to District 8

Program will cost about $30K, approved as part of city budget

SAN ANTONIO – A citywide problem is now under the microscope on the city’s Northwest Side.

A new pilot program aimed at ending panhandling is coming to District 8.

Councilman Manny Pelaez says giving your hard-earned cash to those on busy intersections could be causing more harm than good.

Jose Patino has been panhandling for nine years. He said he doesn’t have an ID and has been unable to get a job.

“At least six to eight hours a day. (I get) anywhere from $40 to $50 to eat,” Patino said.

Pelaez said the problem of panhandlers has gotten out of hand. He wants drivers to take an active role in becoming part of the solution.

The councilman believes the panhandling problem is the worst in District 8, and he knows he can’t arrest the problem away, which is why he’s asking residents to roll up their windows and not give up their cash.

Pelaez will soon be testing out a pilot program, which will consist of putting up signs at busy intersections. The program will cost about $30,000 and has been approved as part of the city budget.

“In all likelihood, the signs are going to remind people that panhandling contributes to addictions. And that (they can make) more impactful change in people’s lives by redirecting that compassion and generosity toward agencies like Haven for Hope or Salvation Army,” Pelaez said.

Pelaez said panhandlers oftentimes use cash to buy drugs, turning busy intersections into dumping grounds for paraphernalia.

A common misconception is that panhandling is illegal and that the San Antonio Police Department should enforce the law.

“Standing on the corner and asking people for money is not illegal, but stepping out into traffic outside of traffic (crosswalks is) illegal … littering (is) illegal, being under the influence in traffic (is) illegal," Pelaez said.

The pilot program is still a few months away from being rolled out. Pelaez said there will also be an app associated with the program where residents can donate to charities dedicated to giving to those in need.