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Initiative aids homeless by cutting out panhandlers

Program offers way to donate on behalf of homeless, discourages giving to panhandlers

SALEM — Giving cash to panhandlers can leave those thinking they’re doing a good deed still questioning where their money is actually going. So city officials are offering a solution: Give them the money instead.

Through ongoing initiatives to work with the city’s homeless population, Salem officials just launched Change It, which seeks to direct those well-intentioned dollars instead to services that benefit the homeless. By sending a simple text message — SALEM to 50555 — residents or visitors can quickly make a $5 donation to benefit the services that feed, clothe and shelter this vulnerable population, and also work to turn their lives around.

And there’s an added benefit for the donor — any donation gets them a discount to several different city businesses, with more to be added to the list soon.

The program was put together by city administration, as well as North Shore Community Health Center, North Shore Community Action Programs, Lifebridge — which operates a shelter and other services for the homeless — and the Salem Police Department.

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Collaboration key to ending Salem’s homelessness

By William J. Dowd

Two distinct forms of homelessness exist in Salem: Transient homeless persons and chronically homeless persons.

The latter is a smaller group – while the former is larger and growing in Salem.

“The statistics are staggering,” said Police Capt. Conrad Prosniewski. “We have a homeless problem in Salem, and the number of calls is going up.”

From January to July 2016, Salem Police averaged 51 homelessness-related calls per month. Over the same seven months in 2017, they averaged 124 calls per month, a 143 percent increase.

Proniewski offered up those statistics before a standing-room-only crowd in an upper room of Derby Street’s St. Joseph’s Hall Thursday evening, July 27. The gathering, organized and facilitated by Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, engaged attendees in what Salem can do to collectively tackle a growing homelessness issue.

Officials also debuted “Collaborative For Hope,” a city-led coalition comprised of Salem social-service agencies from Lifebridge Salem and North Shore Career Center to North Shore Community Action Program and North Shore Community Health Center,– that aims to help empower the homeless population here to end their homelessness.

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