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TORRANCE : $15 Kit Helps Merchants Deter Panhandlers

August 25, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE

The Police Department and the downtown business community have teamed up to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers.

"We decided we needed to educate the general public that panhandling was a crime," said Officer Don Sherwood.

He helped design and distribute a "Panhandler Abatement Kit," which contains a 16- by 24-inch window sign that says "Panhandling Supports Substance Abuse . . . Not People!"

The program came about because some panhandlers were intimidating shoppers in the area.

"One gal, she was just a very angry person. . . . She would beat on their cars," Sherwood said.

The goal of the program is to get people to give money to charities instead, Sherwood said. The kit also contains 25 wallet cards that list South Bay agencies that serve needy people. Businesses can encourage people to give out the cards rather than spare change.

Similar anti-panhandling efforts in Hollywood have been controversial. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce sponsored a poster that depicts a young man holding a sign that says "Help Me." The headline reads "Meet One of Hollywood's Most Successful Actors!"

The advertisement says that many people who ask for money spend what they collect on drugs or alcohol. The posters have been criticized by social service agencies for trivializing the plight of the homeless.

But the South Bay Job Center, an organization that serves homeless people, and is a member of Downtown Torrance Assn., supports the project. It provided the informational cards that come with the package.

"I feel very strongly that this is a big positive in helping the homeless in getting them the help they need," said Michele May, center executive director. "It's not that they are just saying 'Go away,' by any stretch of the imagination."

The $15 kit can be purchased at With You in Mind Boutique, 1326 Sartori Ave.

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