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Camden officials: Stop giving to panhandlers; donate to homeless shelters instead

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Camden County officials are asking residents to stop giving money to panhandlers and start giving it to homeless shelters instead.

It is all part of a new initiative officials say will help end homelessness.

“They see a person and they think that they’re helping them out,” says Camden County Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez. “They don’t realize that they may be actually killing a person.”

Rodriguez says that homelessness in the county is a major problem, along with panhandling.

"You see it on every corner,” she says. “You're now seeing it in places that you never saw it in Camden City. I saw it recently at the corner of 27th and Federal. I've never seen a panhandler there."

The county has launched the initiative “Hearts and Hands” – a program to encourage those who want to help the homeless to donate to charities.

“If you give a person $5, $10, most of the time what they will do is go find a drug dealer to buy their heroin and inject and potentially die,” says Rodriguez.

The program connects Camden County residents with organizations like Cathedral Kitchen, which feeds the homeless and helps them get back on track. Officials say that donated to charity verse donated directly to the person makes a huge difference.

“That could provide 20 meals, where if you give someone $20 it’s not going as far,” says Cathedral Kitchen executive director Carrie Kitchen-Santiago. “Some of that is we get a lot of donated food, so we provide food for a lot more cheaply and we provide a nutritional meal. Whereas someone could go to McDonald’s or Wawa, get something that is unhealthy and spend more money.”

More information about the “Hearts and Hands” program can be found on the program's website.

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