San Rafael puts up signs to stop panhandling

On certain street corners just outside downtown San Rafael people say panhandling has become a problem.
"I think it is shameful they are allowed to come here and do that," said resident Bruce Sarafraz.

City leaders don't like it either. They are hoping signs that went up at key intersections on Wednesday will help.

The signs are aimed at discouraging passersby from giving panhandlers money. Instead, it suggests donating to organizations that help the homeless and includes a phone number for more information.
"The City of San Rafael wants to encourage that generosity. For people experiencing homelessness there are better ways to help than giving money on the street," said director of the city's homeless services, Andrew Hening. 

One former panhandler says sometimes panhandling is the only way to survive.
"People ask for money because they need it," said Paul Hodge, who says he used to be homeless.

Many of the signs went up on Third Street, a busy corridor, where the red lights last a while.
Some residents feel the signs won't stop people from panhandling. 

"I always give them food and drinks; no money," says Mohammad Shirazi of Novato.

While many Bay Area cities have seen an increase in homelessness, Marin County has seen its numbers drop by 7 percent the past two years.
"One of the most successful things we've done is better engaging our landlords. So a lot of people getting housed are getting Section 8 vouchers," said Hening

The city says it hopes by discouraging people from giving money the panhandlers will eventually stop what they are doing and look for services that can help them long-term.