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Monday, September 8, 2008

Mayor Franklin: Panhandling unwelcome downtown

As we'd reported in early August and the AJC repeated Sunday, City Hall has launched something of a crackdown on downtown panhandling. Last month, the city fired the first shot across the bow when police arrested almost 50 aggressive beggars, the first serious enforcement of the downtown "no panhandling zone" in three years.

And this Wednesday, Mayor Shirley Franklin will officially unveil the city's new anti-panhandling strategy, of which increased police enforcement is only one aspect. Basically, the city – with support from Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the downtown business community – will launch a marketing campaign aimed at persuading people not to give money to beggars, but rather to social-service agencies that work with the homeless.

The ultimate goal, says Debi Starnes, a former Councilwoman and Franklin's adviser on homeless issues, is to nudge those who are actually homeless into seeking treatment and help, while discouraging professional panhandlers.

If you're interested, the mayor's announcement will be in the City Hall atrium from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Let's hope this marketing campaign works better than Brand Atlanta.

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