CASA GRANDE — Signs have been sprouting up across Casa Grande over the last couple of months discouraging people from giving to panhandlers.
The signs, including one located at Florence Boulevard and Promenade Way next to Chick-fil-A, look like any other road sign except across the top with a red background they read “Please Help” and then underneath that they simply read “Don’t encourage panhandling. Contribute to the solution www.cghelps.com.”
The signs are part of Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland’s task force to solving homelessness. A major effort was the opening of a resource center inside the Peart Center at 350 E. Sixth St.
“It’s been used in other cities to try and discourage panhandling but encourage the support solutions to solve the homelessness problem,” McFarland said. “Instead of giving money to panhandlers, donate the money to the resource center.”
The idea is similar to the old saying that if you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day, whereas if you teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. A donation to cghelps.com will go a lot further to helping the homeless than giving a buck to someone standing on the street corner.
“It’s part of a homelessness task force and some of the efforts from our city committee,” McFarland said.
The money donated to the website is funneled through Community Action Human Resources Agency — a community action group that supports the resource center in Peart Park.
The center opened its doors in April and is meant to be a one-stop place for the homeless to get the help they need.
McFarland said prior to the mayor’s task force, there were multiple groups that would deal with different issues involving the homeless. He said one group was focused on feeding them, another group wanted to clothe them and another was trying give them water.
“Everyone was doing their own thing and so what I decided, with the help of (Mayor Pro Tem) Donna McBride and (Councilwoman) Lisa Fitzgibbons, is the three of us got together and let’s put together a mayor’s task force and try and tackle this issue and try and make it a collaboration and a group effort and a community solution,” McFarland said.
He added the city studied different programs in both Tempe and Chandler and took some ideas from both. He said CG Helps was inspired by a similar program called I-HELP that aids individuals in need.
McFarland said another idea that was inspired was the use of churches as shelters. However, he admitted that the churches are really a short-term solution. A Tucson program seeks to get people into regular housing as soon as possible.
“They don’t put them into shelters because they have found that shelters don’t really solve the solution.”
The mayor contends that there’s a myriad of problems that contribute to homelessness.
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty lists results of a survey from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. According to the survey, major cities across the country reported the top causes of homelessness for families include: the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty and low wages. The top causes for individuals include: the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, mental illness and substance abuse and the lack of needed services to treat those individuals.
“When we started to peel this onion back and look at homelessness and try and figure out really what the picture looked liked, it was mind boggling,” McFarland said. “There is a thousand reasons why someone is homeless. By trying to treat each one individually, then we can try and deal with that issue at that moment.”