The Ventura Police Department posted a video to their Facebook page, encouraging locals to give to charities rather than offer money directly to the poor.
A police officer stands beside the road, wordlessly holding a ragged stack of cardboard. He displays the written face of each, one at a time. “Want to help?” He drops the sign, revealing another. “Please don’t give to pandhandlers.” The video continues, concluding by asking the public to “work together” to “make things better.”
“Giving money to panhandlers often feeds addictions and does not help someone get long term help,” reads the post’s description. “If you want to give please consider giving to groups that provide meals, medical attention, case management and housing services that help get people off the streets and focused on long-term solutions.”
The post has garnered both criticism and support. Some have said that it unfairly stigmatizes the homeless as addicts, while others have praised the focus on getting them real, long-term, meaningful help. At last count, approximately 554,000 people live without a home in the United States. California’s homeless make up the largest percentage of that number by far.