MACON, Ga. — The Spring Street exit off I-16 is one of Macon’s busiest exits, and a prime location for panhandlers.
A new sign encouraging drivers not to give may redirect their attention and their money somewhere else.
When it comes to panhandling on the side of the road, some people are on split. There are those that do it.
“You got some people that treat you good and some people that are how they are, so that's all that is," Jermaine Black said.
Then, there are those that think it's unsafe.
“I think it’s pretty dangerous -- personally, I've seen people walk on the road, so I think it’s dangerous to not only drivers, but people who are begging," Sebastian Lopez said.
Panhandling is legal. While courts have ruled the First Amendment gives anybody the right to ask for money, a Bibb County ordinance bans aggressive panhandling, like abusive or threatening language, and blocking or grabbing people. Now, the county along with the United Way are encouraging a new way to give.
"If you call 211 and you want to support the panhandling fund, they will send you a link that you can then go and make a donation," George McCanless, the President and CEO of the United Way of Central Georgia said.
Drivers will now see a sign off the Spring Street exit cautioning drivers that giving to panhandlers isn't safe. He says people's donations would help the homeless by going directly to the Brookdale resource center.
"Just giving a dollar or $5 to someone panhandling is not going to help solve their issues or get them into stable housing, it’s just going to keep them panhandling," he continued.
He says if you really want to help those people, United Way is providing a long-term option.
"The money that you contribute through this initiative goes into a special fund here as part of Brookdale that's then used for us to do the outreach for these folks and get them these services," he said.
A couple of Macon’s homeless have said they're concerned they will not see any of those resources if people choose to not give to them directly.
McCanless says more signs just like the one off the Spring Street exit will appear. Where exactly, he does not know.