Campus Panhandling: A Program to Change It

A successful demonstration project to discourage panhandling, started late last year with two Wawa Food Markets on campus, is set to expand this semester.

The project, a joint effort of Penn, University City-area merchants and local social-service agencies aims to change the ways of well-meaning people who would otherwise give change to panhandlers.

Under the recently-launched program, Penn's Office of Community Relations pairs local social-service agencies with merchants seeking to discourage panhandling around their stores. Merchants agree to set up collection boxes for the agencies and receive leaflets that can be handed out to customers.

Since the program began in early December, the results at the Wawas have been encouraging. "In the first two weeks, we collected over $50 at our store, mostly from students," said Al Madeira, manager of the Wawa at 36th and Chestnut streets. "And we've seen less panhandling activity around our store both during the day and at night," since the demonstration began. Joe Gallagher, the manager at the 38th and Spruce streets Wawa, also reported a decrease in panhandling around his store.

The 36th and Chestnut Wawa has joined with Horizon House, which provides counseling and support services for individuals with substance-abuse problems. Donations made at the 38th and Spruce location help the University City Hospitality Coalition feed local homeless people. These two businesses form the core of a program that will be expanded to other area merchants in the next few months.

"The goal of this campaign is twofold: To raise community awareness of what really happens when people give change to panhandlers, and to raise money for organizations that can make real change in the lives of panhandlers and the homeless," said Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan. "Studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of street beggars have substance-abuse or other health problems, and that money given directly to them usually goes to support the panhandler's problem.

"In addition, the presence of panhandlers in an area contributes to perceptions that a community is disorderly, and hence unsafe."

-- Sandy Smith, News & Public Affairs


Volume 43 Number 18
January 21, 1997

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