Officials in Fort Lauderdale apparently think the city needs signs and ads urging passersby to stop feeding loose change to begging beasts homeless people.
On Tuesday, the city approved a $26,350 campaign to plaster the slogan "Panhandling: Don't Contribute to the Problem. Contribute to the solution" around the city. Accompanying the slogan is the iconic red circle and slash combination placed over a hand that's holding a cup with some change.
The red circle and slash often warn against things like feeding the ducks or petting a seeing-eye dog. And while Mayor Jack Seiler "personally love[s]" using a design tactic so closely associated with animals against the homeless, not everyone is in favor of the idea.
"Visually, it's very offensive and gross," says Nathan Pim, a Florida organizer with Food Not Bombs. "It's like having a 'Don't Feed the Animals' sign for people. As usual, they're spending money on the exact opposite of what they should be focusing on."
A document from the city's Public Affairs Department argues that:
Residents and visitors are creating potential harm by giving directly to panhandlers and, instead, are encouraged to give to non-profit organizations.
• Frequently, panhandlers use contributions to fuel chemical addictions and other self-destructive behaviors.
• Panhandlers are a detriment to commerce by harassing residents, tourists and
• The presence of panhandlers affects the ways in which others use public places.
• People's generosity encourages panhandling.
• Money made through panhandling enables panhandlers to sustain living on the
• As an alternative to contributing directly to panhandlers, residents and visitors are
encouraged to donate to a non-profit or charitable organization of their choice.
Under the plan, the logo will be displayed on the back of water bills and taxis and in various other forms throughout the city. The hope is that after seeing it enough times, you keep those few cents in your pocket and jump on the web after you get home and make a donation to one of the local charities highlighted on the campaign's website.
But Pim contends that panhandling allows the homeless in downtown to buy a "couple of thousand cigarettes a day and all the beer they go through," thus supporting small businesses. He's also concerned that the signs do absolutely nothing to address the social stigma attached to homelessness. If anything, they seem to bolster the stigma.
"The city has always been very encouraging of discrimination against the homeless," Pim says.
Even if there are legitimate concerns on the city's part, couldn't the graphic designer have at least exerted an ounce of creativity and effort?