Handouts don't help.
That's the message Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh wants well-intentioned people to know about the city's homeless problem. And it will soon be put on signs for businesses to post in their windows.
"The goal is for people to think longer term," Goh said Monday, adding that giving out money enables substance abuse and encourages panhandlers to keep begging.
Instead, the sign is meant to redirect the giver's goodwill by encouraging donations to be made to nonprofits locally that work on the homeless issue.
"Our goal is to help the homeless person move on in their journey in a positive way. By connecting them to services. That’s a more lasting way to make change," she said.
Goh worked with the Kern Community Foundation to establish a way for donations to be made by text. All donations will be split equally between the Mission at Kern County and the Bakersfield Homeless Center.
Donations can be made by sending a text that says "BAKOHOMELESS" to 44321, which will connect to an online platform, said Kristen Beall Watson, Kern Community Foundation president and CEO. A small processing may apply, likely around 20 cents for a $5 donation, she said.
The move is a small one but is meant to help in the city's overall effort of getting the homeless into services that can help them get off the street permanently. Doing so requires more than just a place to live. A homeless person often needs help with health issues, mental health problems or addiction. The Kern County Mission and Bakersfield Homeless Center provides access to those types of "wrap-around" services.
Goh said a friend designed the sign and the city will print it on plastic boards. They will then be available for any businesses that want to post one in their window.
Goh said donations to other agencies that help the homeless population are welcome, as well. The idea is simply to get the public's help in combatting a difficult and complex problem by not giving out money to those asking for it.