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Alan Graham and Charles Betts sat down in complete agreement on one thing: Nobody likes panhandling. Graham says it is “a cancer on the skin of our community” and Betts calls it “unacceptable behavior.” As president of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Graham has spent the past 13 years digging into every nook and cranny in Austin, on the streets with homeless people and panhandlers, reaching out to them with food and fellowship. Betts has been executive director of the Downtown Austin Alliance for 13 years, working with a consortium of individuals, businesses, social service agencies and local governments to create a safe downtown environment. Clearly each is motivated to see fewer people panhandling on the streets. And they even agree on how to do it, what the biggest obstacles are and how many people need help. What’s interesting is how each believes they sit on different sides of the table. We sat them down on the same side of the table to talk about panhandling. 14

GivingCityAustin.com

GC: What is the Downtown Austin Alliance doing about panhandling? Betts One of the basic goals of DAA is for people to be safe and secure downtown. Panhandling is a public order issue that is important to us. We have advocated strongly for permanent supportive housing for people who don’t meet the definition of “housing ready” because they may have been incarcerated, addicted, or the like. We feel that housing needs to be provided for this population, first, because it’s the humanitarian thing to do—every year about 100 to 125 people die on the streets. And, secondly, because these guys are a public order problem for the downtown community.

Profile for GivingCity Austin

GivingCity Austin #7  

Featuring Austin's 30 New Philanthropists of 2011, plus Spring Art events, How to End Panhandling, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Women's Storybo...

GivingCity Austin #7  

Featuring Austin's 30 New Philanthropists of 2011, plus Spring Art events, How to End Panhandling, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Women's Storybo...

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