In response to increased perception of panhandling, Downtown OKC approached the Homeless Alliance for assistance in 2005. Although research revealed that most panhandlers—almost 80% – were not actually homeless, the Homeless Alliance developed a plan to address the problem.
The result: an initiative that solves multiple problems.
- Some panhandlers are homeless and genuinely need help. We want to help them.
- Panhandlers may be seeking money to purchase drugs or alcohol. We want to show this group that we don’t support those behaviors in OKC.
- Residents of OKC are charitably minded. We need a way to help without enabling unhealthy behavior.
The Real Change Program does just that.
Here’s how it works: First, you purchase a book of 5 vouchers for $5. When approached by a panhandler, give them a voucher instead of $1.
Each voucher includes information on the downtown homeless shelters and a bus ticket to get there. If the person is truly in need the voucher is better than $1, and if not, the voucher isn’t very attractive.
Outcomes from the program have been positive. Since the launch in October 2005, we’ve seen a significant, measurable decline in the number of contacts that OKC Ambassadors have made with panhandlers.
The vouchers, available in books of 5, are printed with instructions for how to redeem it. All of the bus stations participating in the program are mapped on the back of the ticket, along with the participating shelters printed on the front.
There is also a phone number on the front of the ticket in case a specialty shelter needs to be contacted.
You can print the form, complete it, and mail it to the Homeless Alliance at 1724 NW 4th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73106 Please make checks payable to the Homeless Alliance.