New initiative by Greenville law enforcement tackles panhandling - FOX Carolina 21

New initiative by Greenville law enforcement tackles panhandling

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(AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos) (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office has created an initiative called "Give Smart." It serves as a hotline as well, 864-23-HEART.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office has teamed up with dozens of Upstate organizations, including the Salvation Army to create the PSA. In the video, officers from Greenville Police Department and the Sheriff's office uncover areas which are predominantly homeless. Officers said panhandlers are a big issue when it comes to continuing the cycle. 

 "It enlightens people to the fact that when you're giving cash to the homeless, it rarely goes to what you want to go to," Martine Wilder said. Wilder is works in community relations for the Greenville County Sheriff's Office. She said she wanted to create a program to tackle the homeless problem at its roots and give people the help they need for a long term impact. 

"We're directing people to give donations to the organizations that really do help the homeless. We're trying to get people off the streets and go to the services that they need," Wilder said.

Lauren Stephens at the Salvation Army calls it "coming inside." A decision she said every homeless person has to make. She went into detail explaining people need to come to services like the Salvation Army in their own free will. Law enforcement cannot force the homeless to receive help. Many may battle drugs and alcohol, and the Salvation Army said a person has to be sober when they walk up for help in order to receive it. The organization does have a 12 step, Bible based program as a resource. Stephens said there is something to be said for walking along with someone through the journey, rather than handing them money. Stephens said she has been there for the failures and the successes. 

"When you meet those basic needs, when you provide shelter, food and clothing and you provide community, and a sense of belonging, you see people create their own purpose. They become these people you've never met before," Stephens said. 

A bright transformation she and law enforcement hope others in the homeless community can make. 

"We didn't want it to become an us and them issue, we wanted people to know more about this to know how they can help in a real and true type of way," Stephens said.

864-23-HEART stands for Homeless Education, Assistance,Reduction, Transition. It also serves as a hotline people in the homeless community can call for immediate shelter needs, medical needs and more. 

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