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In response to a drastic increase in aggressive and threatening panhandling on campus, the Office of Community Relations has launched a new initiative called "Don't Give Change, Help Penn Make a Change." The program will provide local merchants with information booklets and a list of campus locations where panhandlers are especially prevalent. In addition, posters will be displayed around campus and in the windows of on-campus businesses to publicize the campaign. The program will begin experimentally next month and will officially start in September, according to Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan. Twenty local business -- including McDonald's, CVS, Wawa, 7-11, Cinnabon and Allegro's Pizza -- have already agreed to take part in the University's campaign against panhandling. "We want to make this area a panhandling-free area," Bryan said. "We want people to give their change to organizations that deal with problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental health illnesses and homelessness." The booklet also offers alternatives to giving change -- such as giving food, telling panhandlers where to find area service organizations and volunteering with one of the organizations listed in the booklet. "Many panhandlers and street people are very personable and will be friendly and attentive to get your attention and sympathy," the booklet reads. The information specifically asks students not to give panhandlers money because it "is used most often to support a drug or alcohol habit." Bryan explained that panhandling poses a safety risk to community members, while also hurting local businesses. He met with representatives from several organizations, including the Center City District and City Services to the Homeless, to generate ideas for the new program. University officials decided against distributing vouchers for food, an idea that was previously under consideration. "We want to educate the Penn community," Bryan said. "We can increase the capacity level of service organizations by donating money to them rather than giving change to panhandlers." Bryan also said he hopes to integrate the program into next fall's New Student Orientation. Activities will include presentations for those interested and student-community discussions between students, faculty, community members and business owners.

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