I have been told multiple times over the past month that the panhandling situation is better. Here is what the Durango Business Improvement District is seeing:
Panhandling has definitely decreased when compared to the past two summers. However, last summer, things started out slowly but went back to problem levels in July and August. BID continues to do everything in its power to keep this issue at a manageable level.
It is important to note that panhandling is not illegal. If a person chooses to panhandle in downtown and does so respectfully, they have every right to be there just like anyone else. But when behavior crosses legal lines, then a person’s right to be in our downtown goes away.
So why are things better? BID attributes the reduction primarily to the increased police presence downtown. The Durango Police Department has also recently created a Community Engagement Team, whose primary purpose is to engage with the community no matter who the person is. The Community Engagement Team interacts with everyone they encounter, be they a tourist, a local business owner or a panhandler, in the spirit of helping them.
BID’s homeless outreach coordinator has also made a difference. This person has put in many hours over the month of June working with people in need downtown to help them access services. For those who do not want any services, BID’s homeless outreach coordinator reminds them of the rules for acceptable behavior downtown.
BID’s Make it Count campaign asks people to not give to panhandlers and instead to give to local charities. BID believes the No. 1 reason panhandlers are downtown is because they receive donations while here. Our campaign is having an impact by redirecting some of those donations to local programs and services.
Last weekend, BID tried something new as part of the Make it Count campaign. We hired a youth string band from Albuquerque to play in front of the Main Mall, and all tips they received were donated to the Make It Count campaign. I am happy to say that we raised nearly $100 in under an hour!
BID’s ambassadors are also pushing the Make it Count message, while also referring people visiting downtown to our local businesses, and doing so with a smile.
BID continues to work with the city on enacting a new law making it illegal to sit or lie down on the sidewalks, to enhance safety downtown.
BID counts June as a successful month in our goal to reduce the panhandling issue to a manageable level. We’ll keep working hard for the rest of summer, and year-round, in the hopes of achieving similar success.
To keep up with information about downtown and uptown throughout the year, sign up for BID’s weekly E-News. The E-news is a short, accurate and timely information piece published every Wednesday morning, and now features a weekly trivia contest with great prizes. To sign up, text DURANGOBID to 22828 or go to DowntownDurango.org and click on the “Communications” tab.
email@example.com. Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District.