It's not uncommon to get approached in downtown Oak Park by someone looking for spare change, a few bucks or a bite to eat. Is it problematic?
According to a local business group, law enforcement officers and a philanthropic agency, the answer is yes.
"It is a problem partly because of the generosity of the community," begins a press release issued by Downtown Oak Park.
Together with the and the (OPRFCF), the downtown business group has created an "alternative giving program...so that donations can follow the good intentions of the community — to give to those who need it most."
Here's how it will work:
The OPRFCF has set up a charitable fund that will send grant money to the area's top social service agencies, including West Suburban PADS, the , the Oak Park-River Forest Area Walk-In Ministry, Thrive Counseling and Thresholds Mental Health Services. Donations to the OPRFCF will help keep these agencies funded.
So, instead of handing out spare change or buying a sandwich, officials are urging residents and visitors to handout "palm cards" that refers panhandlers to the resource agencies.
Those cards will be available at businesses in downtown Oak Park.
To drive home "the importance of NOT giving to panhandlers," and to offer clarification of local panhandling laws, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office will make a presentation from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the , 834 Lake St.