“There’s no reason for anyone to be out panhandling,” Great Falls Business Improvement District Community Director Joan Redeen said.
Unfortunately, it’s a problem in the Electric City, specifically downtown.
“People feel uncomfortable going downtown when they are being asked for money,” Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Etzwiler said.
The Business Improvement District has a plan: Coins for a Cause, which are the boxes you see throughout town, on a lamp post or when you are checking out in a store.
Any amount of money you drop in the boxes goes towards this cause. All the proceeds are donated to organizations who help keep the homeless off the streets and improve their lives.
“It’s about us helping people to be what they are intended to be, the great person that they are intended to be. If we weren’t here, where would they be?” Great Falls Rescue Mission Executive Director Jim Kizer said.
The Rescue Mission is located on the 400 block of 2nd Avenue South. They welcome struggling men, women, and families into their shelter and provide them with food and a warm place to stay.
“It is so awesome to see families grow here. I can just tell you story after story of ladies and men that have just transformed their lives,” Kizer said.
But there’s strict policies. Anyone who stays there must follow the rules, including a curfew.
“People that stay with us know that this is their last place of finding hope. They know that if we ask them to leave because of a decision that they made, they have nowhere else to turn to,” Kizer said.
And more specifically, no panhandling.
“We can think of enabling a person and we can provide blankets and food and so on while they are under the bridge, and that keeps them under the bridge. Or we can invite them in to places that will give them help,” Kizer said.