’Tis the season for giving. But the Country Club Plaza doesn’t want you to give to panhandlers, at least not aggressive ones.
Kansas City’s iconic shopping district said it has been handing out wallet-size pamphlets for several years that advise consumers to give to service organizations instead. The pamphlets, also available at the Plaza’s customer service center along with brochures on area attractions, include such comments as:
“Charity and concern for the homeless are wonderful things. But a quarter here and a dime there can add up to little more than a life of continued dysfunction and/or social isolation. Your spare change may actually be hurting a person in need by enabling him or her to delay seeking meaningful treatment and help.”
After negative media reports last week, Glenn Stephenson, vice president and division manager at Highwoods Properties in Kansas City, issued this statement:
“Often, Plaza patrons have expressed to us concerns regarding panhandling. While most panhandlers are friendly and nonthreatening, there have been occasions when that is not the case. In response to this and to carefully guide our customers and also assist the homeless, we created a pamphlet for concerned patrons that shares tips for dealing with these sometimes-uncomfortable situations, as well as provides names and contact information of 10 organizations dedicated to assisting the homeless population of Kansas City. On occasion, these pamphlets are distributed to patrons on the street when encountering panhandlers. We understand there are sensitivities involved and are re-evaluating the content and use of the pamphlet. There are not and have never been signs regarding panhandling posted on the Plaza.”
This week the Plaza issued a further statement saying its approach, “including pamphlets with similar language,” was “common among public safety and law enforcement departments here locally. However, it’s obvious to say that we’ve learned the language used on the cover of this pamphlet is upsetting to some people. That was never our intent. Our intent was to assist people who felt threatened by aggressive panhandlers and offer alternative ways to give through established organizations, as listed within the pamphlet.”
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