Lafayette Residents Express Mixed Reactions Over New Anti-Panhandling Signs
You may have noticed new signs around Lafayette that warn against giving money to panhandlers.
It's an issue that is in no way exclusive to Lafayette and every city handles it in its own unique way. This most recent approach from LCG is rooted in "safety first," according to Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle.
First of all, we don’t want distracted drivers and also there are so many better ways to help people who are really in need.
Angelle, speaking on behalf of the Mayor-President's office, told KLFY that the signs weren't installed with the intent of "anti-homeless" messaging, but as a way to "discourage" motorists from giving cash or loose change to those panhandling on "busy street corners." The signs also offer a number (211) for those needing help.
Dialing 211 is basically a quicker way to access 232-HELP and gives callers "fast, free, and confidential information about community services." Here's more info on their official website that is definitely worth the look if you're not fully familiar.
Before I go any further, I just want to stress how complex this issue is. People who panhandle may be suffering from a myriad of issues including financial hardship, substance abuse, mental health issues, and more. To make things even more complex, it's very likely that panhandlers are suffering from a combination of these issues, making it even harder to find a "one and done" solution to getting them the help that they may need.
While we're piling on the complexity of this topic, let's not forget to include the panhandlers who may not suffer from any of the aforementioned but are simply hustlers looking to take advantage of people's generosity.
It's one of the main points that Angelle noted in his conversation with KLFY about the new panhandling signs in Lafayette.
We live in a generous community and people who are not even from this area are coming here to take advantage of our generosity.
Similar signs showed up in Baton Rouge earlier this year, also leading to mixed reactions. Some residents felt like the signs were too "aggressive" with their messaging.
Lafayette's panhandling signs are not aggressive in the slightest bit, but some reactions expressed concern about the "cluttered" look of the signs as well as a tone that one resident described as shaming in a Facebook post.
More reactions came through on Facebook, and you can see just how mixed the feelings are in this very complex situation.
Last year, Mayor-President Josh Guillory proposed a measure to make it illegal for any person to "sit or stand for any period of time" within 3 feet of a roadway or unpaved median (with exceptions for bus stops) but both the Lafayette city and parish council opted to defer.
As opinions and hot takes continue to roll in as people notice the signs, tell us how you feel about them. While reactions are mixed, this is definitely a conversation that can lead to productive change and could quite possibly help someone needing a hand up in our community.
See the full report via KLFY here.