GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — A new program hopes to end panhandling, while still helping those in need.

There’s a new program called, “Keep the change to be the change.” The program has been going on for months.

You may see the large green and blue signs with a QR code in downtown Greenville. It’s a panhandling program the United Housing Connections has started with the City.

“So, what that means, is rather than providing a dollar or two, you know, daily for someone, donate to the organizations that are providing outreach and really trying to connect people to housing and support services,” said Lorain Crowl, CEO of United Housing Connections.

“I think there’s issues in the City. We’ve seen increase in the City. We’ve seen increase in the county, and we’re seeing increase across the country, particularly with inflation, and like I said, we’ve talked about people losing their housing. We’re seeing an uptick in those kind of activity,” Crowl said.

“In general, I don’t know about an increase, but we have received complaints about panhandling just from people,” said Sgt. Johnathan Bragg, Public Information Officer for the Greenville Police Department. “We’ll see individuals on the side of the road, over overpasses, along [Interstate] 385, [Interstate] 85 area asking people for money as well,” he said.  

Now this program will allow people to receive direct help.

“The feeling is how do we help these folks and why is this happening, and can we connect them to something long-term employment or housing or something, that can mitigate all of this and keep this from being their primary go to way of personal support,” Crowl said.

The money goes straight to the United Housing Connections and to non-profit partners who can do more than pass along spare change.

“So, we are connected to all of these agencies who provide not only outreach, but shelter services, and so what that really looks like is that, for example, we come together and we meet on a regular basis—all the service providers,” Crowl said.

“It’s a way to get that situation taken care of because that money will go directly to taking care of that person and whatever issue they are facing,” Crowl said.

“Then, it builds trust to get them connected to housing and services, and all of those things,” she said. “So, it becomes a very important vehicle for bringing people back into society and back into safety and housing.”

This not only addresses a bigger issue, but helps with a long-term solution.

“You know, many times people think when they provide a dollar or two donations to a person who’s panhandling, that they’re assisting and they may be for the moment, but what that really does, is it continues the perpetual day after day of experiencing homelessness.,” Crowl said.

“It’s really like I say, a community solution and not just a United Housing Connections solution,” Crowl said. “We’re really working together to try to figure out how to try to figure out how to best move these people forward,” she said.

“I think that will be helpful. We have the signs that are out downtown. I’ve seen a few of them and I’ve seen a few people actually using them and once they do scan that QR code, it’ll bring up some local resources here, and all of the profits and materials that are donated go directly to the homeless here in Greenville,” Bragg said.

The Greenville Police Department said its not illegal for anyone to ask for money.

“In general, that alone is not illegal, but sometimes we will get reports of harassments, someone following people or aggressive panhandling which we will address that, and we kind of educate people on what they need to do if they do get approached about that,” Bragg said.

To learn more about the program, click here.

You can also donate to the United Housing Connections clicking here.