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Note from the Mayor

In December, the City, along with several partner organizations, kicked off a campaign to reduce panhandling by encouraging our residents to Give Better. Below is an OpEd that recently appeared in the Rockford Register Star:
December is the most popular month for charitable giving. People tend to open their hearts and their wallets to those less fortunate during the holidays. This year, we encourage you to share your generosity with those organizations which create sustainable, long lasting change.
We know our community is full of kind-hearted people who truly want to make a difference. Some share their generosity with panhandlers. Others aren’t sure what to do when approached by a panhandler and wish the City could do more to stop them. The truth is – as the Federal Courts have ruled over and over, panhandlers have the right to ask for money; however, you have the right to say no. Unfortunately, the more citizens give to panhandlers, the longer this activity will continue. While people may feel better about providing a small amount, please realize this only perpetuates the ongoing issue and does not help with a long-term solution.
Consider this – you give $12 to a panhandler and it may or may not be used for food or necessities. That same $12 given to the Rockford Rescue Mission can provide a person in need with a meal, a shower, a night of shelter and case management with rescue mission staff. Meaningful donations can change a life, not just a day. The same goes for many local wonderful non-profits in our area. Donations to legitimate agencies– those who have a board of directors, file paperwork with the IRS and comply with state requirements – will make the greatest impact on our community.
In addition, the City of Rockford Health and Human Services team regularly speaks with panhandlers to see how the City can help those who are homeless or in need. Locally, we find that many have a place to stay, but refuse other help. We will continue to reach out and offer our help. We hope they will take us up on our offer when they are ready.
As you’re considering giving this holiday season, please consider giving better and give to local non-profits who are working to improve the lives of our residents every day.
Tom McNamara, Mayor of Rockford



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