Despite passing a 2005 ban on panhandlers in the convention district, Atlanta still struggles with the problem. “Convention groups have told us that panhandling is damaging to their attendees experience and to our reputation, despite all of Atlanta’s assets,” says President and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau Spurgeon Richardson. The city is hoping to finally resolve the issue with a multi-tiered strategic campaign, Give Change That Makes Sense, currently in effect through March 2009.
Features of the program call for increased enforcement of the ban, and increased interaction and intervention on both the private and public levels. Educational efforts are a large component of the program as well. Campaigns focused on citizens will emphasize how counterproductive it is to donate the panhandlers and how beneficial their contributions are when given directly to homeless organizations. Campaigns focused on panhandlers emphasize that their actions are illegal, and that there are multiple shelters where they can receive aid, care and lodging.
As part of the increased security efforts, the city’s COMNET radio frequency that links the police and private business will report panhandlers’ whereabouts in both public and private areas. This means hotel security guards will have the ability to track panhandlers and alert law enforcement officials to their location in order to provide better security for convention delegates.