Ad campaign urges people to think twice about giving to panhandlers

Clean & Safe debuts new billboard urging people to donate to social services agencies instead of panhandlers.

Mar 1, 2016
For more information: 
Liza Dossick, 503.552.6772 | 

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Downtown Clean & Safe District launched a new ad campaign today that urges people to donate to social service agencies instead of giving to panhandlers on the street. The campaign debuted today with a billboard on SW Fourth and Morrison as a new extension of Clean & Safe’s ongoing “Real Change not Spare Change” public awareness campaign. The billboard’s  message, which shows a panhandler’s sign bearing the message “your spare change funds my addictions,” is based on survey data collected on behalf of Clean & Safe by a local nonprofit social service provider. The survey found that money given to panhandlers often goes toward supporting harmful addictions, such as drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse. 
“We want to change public behavior around giving to panhandlers by providing a more effective way to making a difference,” said Mark Schlesinger, partner at Schlesinger Companies and chair of the Downtown Clean & Safe District board of directors. “Portland has phenomenal social service agencies that are helping people get the services they need to put their lives back on track. We want to direct generosity to those programs rather than a handout that may keep people in an addiction longer.” 
The “Real Change not Spare Change” campaign Clean & Safe launched this past summer includes signs and flyers placed in heavily trafficked areas of the downtown area to encourage those approached by panhandlers to donate instead to organizations whose help can make a broad impact.
“We’re seeing improvement in panhandling activity in downtown,” said Mark Schlesinger. “Nearby businesses report that there has been a decrease in panhandling at corners where there is signage.”
The campaign also provides a number to text and a QR code to scan from a mobile device that allows for a donation. Donations will go to the Kevin Montgomery Smith Fund, which will distribute the money to social service providers in the community delivering front-line services to those experiencing homelessness.  
The billboard will run from March through August 2016. More information on the campaign and a way to donate can be found at   
Downtown Clean & Safe District
Downtown’s Clean & Safe District was created more than 20 years ago to support additional cleaning and security in the central city. The district, funded by downtown property owners, includes 213 blocks in the central city, and also supports market research and retail recruitment and retention efforts. The district is managed by the Portland Business Alliance under the direction of the district’s board of directors. Learn more at