Program Components

The key element of Change for the Better is public education. A public education campaign was launched in May 2004 and a second was launched in June 2005. The public education campaign is the primary focus of Change for the Better and will increase understanding of this issue.

It is the hope of Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. that this program will have two effects:

  • Increased understanding of the social service agencies available to Anchorage’s homeless population.
  • Encouragement to give money to the charities that provide these social services instead of to the panhandler directly.


In 2004, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. produced a series of informative posters about the Change for the Better program, all of which were updated in 2011. Design work for the posters was donated by Rival Design Studio of Anchorage. This year, the posters have been updated with new designs, new images, and new ways of broadcasting the message of the program. These updates provide a range of posters that better suit the wide range of attitudes of those who will be using them.

In addition, ADP produced pocket cards in 2004 that were available in businesses and other public areas and will describe the options available for those in need, giving the public alternatives to act if they are approached by a panhandler.


The Change for the Better website was designed to provide interested individuals with information about the program and related topics. Design work for the website was donated by Rival Design Studio of Anchorage.

Creating a website for the Change for the Better program provides interested individuals with information about the program as well as information about the social services that help homeless individuals. It is one way of delivering the information that is essential to the success of the program, one that can be updated at any time with new information or partners.

And because the website is viewable to anyone in the world, it will be something that other BIDs across the country – or even across the world – can turn to if they want to create a Change for the Better program of their own.

How You Can Help

It is the central belief of the Change for the Better program that generosity better serves panhandlers when directed towards the agencies that assist these individuals.

Real change – not spare change – is the best way to help out panhandlers.

Below is a list of some of the agencies providing real change in people’s lives. These partners in the Change for the Better program work to make a real difference in people’s lives, and all provide opportunities to help by volunteering or contributing.

Brother Francis Shelter

Brother Francis Shelter provides temporary, emergency shelter for men and women, an evening meal, and use of shower and laundry facilities, case management services, advocacy, job readiness, and referrals for employment, permanent housing, mental health issues, and treatment options for alcohol and substance abuse.

Brother Francis Shelter provided 77,955 nights of stay and served 3,192 homeless men and women during fiscal year 2010.

In one year, 61,872 meals were served. Providence Health & Services Alaska provides the evening meal and community members donate sandwiches for those missing meal times due to an appointment or work schedule conflict.

The clothing room provided assistance 11,311 times for those seeking basic clothing items. Clean clothes in good condition are needed to help us meet the demand.

For more information on Brother Francis Shelter or to make a donation of food, household furnishings or clothing, call the main line at 276-5590 or click here make a secure online donation.

Bean’s Café

The underlying premise of Bean’s Café is a deep belief in the inherent dignity of every person, a belief that people respond with kindness when treated kindly, with trust when trusted, and respectfully when respected. Their aim is not to set up a value system – determining what is right or wrong – or a way of life for persons, but to allow them to form their own. In this situation a person is not pressured into acting in a special way, and their eventual response is free, lasting, and more fully themselves.

Bean’s Café is a stand alone, non-sectarian, 501(c)(3) non-profit agency that is community-based and community-supported. Since 1979, Bean’s has maintained a center where the hungry and homeless are provided with hot nutritious meals, a warm and safe day shelter, information and referral assistance to health and human service programs.

Bean’s targets the poorest people in our community, the street people, the homeless, the chronically mentally ill, and the needy elderly. They also serve families in temporary crisis, the seasonally unemployed, and assist various local agencies in the feeding of children.

Bean’s Café exists to provide the most basic of human needs without discrimination or cost to anyone requesting assistance.

Individuals interested in helping Bean’s can volunteer, participate in special events, make financial contributions, and make food and material donations.

For more information, contact 274-9595.

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound provides the homeless chronic alcoholic with the tools needed to travel the journey home. At Homeward Bound, residents and staff work together to rebuild the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Only with this foundation, can residents rejoin the world confident and empowered.

Homeward Bound seeks to replace hopelessness with confidence and self-empowerment. Homeward Bound is based on client choice and self-advocacy, as demonstrated by the program’s philosophy of resident self-directed and paced alcohol and financial management. There is only one measurement of success: meaningful, stable and personally satisfying reintegration into whatever community residents choose to rejoin.

Community Bound, begun in 1999, is a complimentary component of Homeward Bound, focusing on employment and housing. Community Bound participants receive an individualized employment training program, an individualized money management strategy and plan, facilitation to return to their community of choice, rental assistance (if needed) and up to 24 months of intensive case management follow-up services.

ReBound, another component of Homeward Bound, offers project-oriented services to a variety of medium and small businesses within the greater Anchorage area. These services may include cleaning up construction sites, minor cleaning and repair to apartment complexes and mobile home parks, landscaping and site preparations for retrofit operations. ReBound may also support task-oriented positions such as arts and crafts production, fire prevention site work, bark beetle kill removal and subsequent wood sales, as well as snow removal.

To learn more about the program, click here.

Covenant House

For over sixteen years Covenant House Alaska has been serving homeless and runaway youth in Alaska. In that time their services have expanded and some of the community needs have changed, but their mission remains the same: “To serve the suffering children of the streets.”

Covenant House Alaska’s sole purpose is to be of value to this community by remaining open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for kids in crisis. Kids come to us in need of shelter, food, clothing, or simply someone to listen to them, and we are committed to being here to help them and their families.

The kids that come to Covenant House Alaska have faced many difficulties in their young lives, but they have not given up hope. They show great courage and determination each day. Though the road is sometimes a long and difficult one, they continue on the path to becoming healthy, self-sufficient, and contributing members of our community. On behalf of the kids, both past and future, seeking help at Covenant House, thank you for supporting our mission and having faith in their future.

Approximately 90% of the funding for Covenant House comes from the generous donations of friends like you — partners in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of at risk youth.

Individuals may donate clothing, hygiene products, recreation items, safety items, and man others listed on their Agency Wish List. Individuals may also make financial donations online or by printing this form and mailing the donation to the address on the form.

For more information, please contact Alison Kear – Director of Development – at 339-4407 or via email.

United Way

United Way is not a social service provider, but they are a leader and partner in making Anchorage a stronger, healthier more compassionate community. They bring donors and volunteers together with community leaders, agencies and other experts to address the most pressing issues in our community.

United Way of Anchorage began as The United Good Neighbor Fund in 1956 for the purpose of raising funds for specific non-profits through a yearly fund-raising campaign. The first campaign raised $269,000. Today United Way has become a driving force in the health & human service arena, with 50 member agencies and raising over $9 million annually.

United Way has two roles in the community – one to provide funding to services that meet specific needs in the community and a second to bring segments of the community together to focus on community solutions. Many individuals and organizations do work together in a uniquely Alaskan manner. The United Way of Anchorage is a leader in developing this spirit of cooperation in our community.

When individuals give to the United Way, their gift stays right here in Anchorage making it a better place for all of us to live and work. United Way of Anchorage knows where the greatest needs are, ensuring funds raised here are invested in the most critical issues of our community.

Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities, or click here to learn about donation opportunities.

Why Is This Program Needed?

Panhandlers are growing in numbers for many reasons, not the least of which is the ease with which they can get money here in Anchorage. We are a generous city filled with generous individuals.

That’s why public education about the Change for the Better program is so important. We must educate residents, visitors, and businesses on how donations are more effective than handouts by providing specific information about what services are offered by the various social services in town.

One of the biggest hurdles to successful implementation of the Change for the Better program is convincing people that the instant gratification of giving a dollar or two to a panhandler would be better spent at the charities that operate various social service programs across the city.

It is important to stress that <strong>individuals SHOULD NOT feel bad about NOT giving money directly to panhandlers.

Will this program be effective?

According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, most researchers and practitioners seem to agree that the enforcement of laws prohibiting panhandling is only one part of controlling the problem.

Public education to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers and adequate social services are the essential components of an effective and comprehensive response.

Providing adequate social services and substance abuse treatment to reduce panhandlers’ need to panhandle has the potential to be a highly effective tool in reducing overall panhandling.

And directing the generous nature of Anchorage residents to those social service agencies which can best serve the needs of panhandlers will help ensure an effective and thorough long-term solution to the problem.

The program will work if we all work together.

This is a city-wide issue that will require a city-wide response. Working toegther, we can ensure that Change for the Better works.

We invite you to become a part of the solution along with the many other supporters and partners of Change for the Better:

  • Anchorage businesses
  • The Downtown Community Council
  • The City of Anchorage
  • The Mayor’s Offic
  • The SAFECity program
  • The Anchorage Police Department
  • The Anchorage Responsible Beverage Retailers Association
  • Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.
  • … and many others!


Change for the Better is an educational and compassionate alternative program to address panhandling in Anchorage.

The primary focus of Change for the Better is a public awareness campaign to deter panhandling in favor of supporting human service providers.

Instead of giving change to panhandlers who may use the money to feed an addiction, individuals can better serve the homeless population by giving to local service providers who provide food, clothing, shelter and other living necessities to those in need.

Through its emphasis on giving money to service providers, Change for the Better is one part of the long-term solution to the problem.

Spare change can’t help a panhandler – real change occurs when we put panhandlers in touch with social service providers who can attack the root of the problem.

Why is this program being launched?

Panhandling occurs throughout Anchorage, with the majority of activity taking place in Downtown, Midtown and within the Southside commercial areas. However, panhandling is not illegal. In fact, panhandling is an activity that is protected by freedom of speech laws.

But an increasing number of citizens, tourists and businesses have voiced concerns to city officials and Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. over the escalating problem of aggressive panhandlers and the impact they are having on the quality of life of citizens, residents, and visitors. Based on the experience of other cities, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd. created the Change for the Better program to combine education of the public, compassion for the individual on the streets and alternatives for the panhandler to meet their needs for food, clothing and shelter with the hope that through the knowledge of these resources panhandling won’t be necessary.

Supporters of Change for the Better remain committed to the program because of its emphasis on long-term solutions to the problem. Spare change can’t help a panhandler – real change occurs when we put panhandlers in touch with social service providers who can attack the root of the problem.

It’s about more than just homelessness

Panhandling is more than just a homeless issue – it is a health & safety issue for both the public and the panhandlers themselves.

Safety for the Panhandler – Have you ever been approached by panhandlers who solicit from the side fo the road or from the medians?

While meant to be kind offers from caring citizens, money offered to panhandlers who choose locations such as these present a danger to the panhandlers and to the driving public. Drawing panhandlers directly into the dangers of traffic have resulted in serious automobile accidents.

Safety for the Public — In addition to the dangers presented by panhandlers in traffic, some individuals have felt threatened by panhandlers.

Generally, there are two types of panhandling: passive and aggressive. Passive panhandling is soliciting without threat or menace, often without any words exchanged at all–just a cup or a hand held out.

Aggressive panhandling is soliciting from certain locations (such as ATM machines), coercive solicitation with actual or implied threats, or solicitation through menacing actions.

In some cases, panhandlers who use physical force or extremely aggressive actions may actually be charged with robbery.

Panhandlers who threaten the public and our visitors’ safety will not be tolerated, and the Anchorage Police Department will respond.

What is the goal of this campaign?

  • To educate the public on the reality of panhandling in order to stop perpetrating it.
  • To provide a positive alternative to giving spare change to panhandlers. “Give a hand up not a hand out.”
  • To improve safety in our community and improve the Downtown experience for visitors and regular users.
  • To support social service agencies providing fundamental resources to people in need.
  • To help get individuals on the streets into a safer environment.
  • This campaign is not about saying “no” to panhandlers or about decreasing the public’s compassion toward the panhandlers. The campaign offers a way the public can truly help.

Change for the Better seeks to educate the public of the many resources already available to homeless and panhandling individuals. Social service agencies in Anchorage provide an array of fundamental basics – including food, clothing and shelter – and are well-supported by businesses and the public.

No one needs to panhandle in order to feed themselves. Spare change is only a short-term solution and does not create long-term results.

Change for the Better also seeks to provide an alternative to the accepted behavior of panhandlers and those who give money to panhandlers. The program encourages the public to contribute directly to social service providers instead of giving spare change to panhandlers who may use the money to buy alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

People who give money to panhandlers cannot be sure where the money will go – but donors who give money to social service agencies know exactly where their funds are going and what their money is doing to help the problem.

Be part of the solution

The Change for the Better campaign is not the solution — it is just the beginning of a community wide effort to manage and possibly address the larger issues behind panhandling.

Panhandling is a complex social issue. Many of the root causes behind panhandling, such as poverty, drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness, are not easily solved. Despite this fact, the community can play an important role in managing the situation and at the same time ensure that all of our citizens have their needs met for food, clothing and shelter.

Donating to a local organization rather than to an individual not only benefits individuals in need, but the entire community as well. Donating to social service providers is one way that we can all help to make a change.