The Charleston Homeless Task Force, in conjunction with the Charleston Police Department, is launching a public education campaign to inform the public that there is a better way to respond to requests for money from people who solicit money on city streets, at busy intersections and public parking lots.

“People in Charleston are extremely generous and sincerely want to help folks who are truly homeless and in need of assistance,” said Task Force Chair Becky Ceperley. “They find it extremely difficult to turn down people asking them for money, but there is a better way to assist those in need.”

Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper cautioned city residents and visitors: “When you respond to requests for money from people you don’t know, you put yourself in potential danger and often are encouraging destructive behavior and, maybe even illegal activities.”

Both Ceperley and Cooper explained they don’t think it’s wrong to give, but strongly encourage the public to “Give Where It Belongs.” On behalf of the Homeless Task Force, Ceperley outlined the major components of the “Give Where It Belongs” Campaign to change the giving pattern of those approached by panhandlers:

Beginning today, city residents and visitors are urged not to give money to individuals soliciting money on downtown streets and busy intersections, but instead text Home to 313131 on their mobile phones to assist those truly in need. Texting Home to 313131 will connect the user to a page on their mobile phone where a credit card donation of $5, $10, $15, or $25 can be made. Donations will be collected by the United Way of Central West Virginia and distributed equally to Charleston homeless service providers: Covenant House, Daymark, Manna Meal, RCCR, Roark-Sullivan and the YWCA.

In addition, donations can also be made on the website, www.givewhereitbelongs.com. The website will include links to the six Charleston homeless service providers, as well as offering a video describing the campaign.