SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Signs asking people to “say no to panhandling” may have caught your attention recently in downtown Sioux Falls, and if so, you’re not alone. Social media accounts for mayoral candidate Taneeza Islam posted photos of one of the signs along with her commentary. In addition to the “say no to panhandling” messaging, the signs also tell people to “contribute to the solution” and “give to local charities.” Not all panhandling is illegal in Sioux Falls. But it can be, such as if someone enters traffic to do so.
Passersby can spot the signs in downtown Sioux Falls at the intersection of Phillips Avenue and West 10th Street.
“To post a sign, to shame those for something that’s not even illegal, doesn’t really get to the root causes of the symptom which is panhandling, right?” Islam said. “The root causes are houselessness, being unhoused, homelessness, food insecurity and the lack of substance abuse treatment programs that are accessible for everyone.”
“I suppose you could always find an example of somebody that’s in need and gets some benefit from that, but from what we see is the people that are panhandling are [using] it to continue their addiction, and primarily alcohol. That’s what we see most of all,” Sioux Falls Police Department spokesperson Sam Clemens said. “We have a lot of examples of people that are getting money, they’re going and buying booze and then they end up causing problems in the neighborhood.”
Clemens says that the end result of a gift is unknown.
“You don’t know what they’re going to do with that money, and if you see that sign, it might be a reminder of, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t give it to this person, maybe I should donate it to another charity where I know that the money is going to be put to use,'” Clemens said. “The other part of that is hopefully to keep people that are panhandling out of the streets, because that’s where the danger comes in, is when people are leaving the sidewalks, leaving the curbs.”
Islam doesn’t discount existing resources, but she wants civic investment.
“Yes, we have great nonprofits in our community who are working to tackle these root issues: homelessness, food insecurity, lack of substance abuse treatment programs and counseling,” Islam said. “But there’s not enough money in our nonprofit sector to solve this issue. It’s time that the city invests resources in figuring out the root causes of these problems.”
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken’s office provided KELOLAND News the following statement from him on the topic:
“As a community, the best thing that we can do to address panhandling is to not support it with our pocketbooks. On the surface some may feel giving out money is the right approach, but these signs serve as a reminder that giving money to panhandlers has the tendency to exacerbate the problem instead of contributing to a solution. We have many great resources across our community to help our vulnerable population. I know that we have a generous community full of people who want to help, and I encourage residents to give to the nonprofit organizations in our community, which ultimately will better address the needs of our vulnerable population in Sioux Falls.”