HelpCOS Campaign Aims to Reduce Panhandling, Re-direct Giving

Partnership between City of Colorado Springs, United Way to benefit local service providers

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Giving to panhandlers isn’t helpful, but giving to local service providers is. That’s the message behind the HelpCOS campaign launched today by the City of Colorado Springs in partnership with the Pikes Peak Area United Way. The multifaceted campaign aims to educate the public while redirecting well-meaning generosity to impactful local service agencies that provide shelter, meals and vital services for the impoverished or homeless in this community. 

“We recognize an increasing level of frustration in our city with the number of individuals panhandling on street corners and off-ramps. At the same time, we also hear from residents who are sympathetic, but aren’t sure how best to help. This campaign aims to harness both emotions and give people a very easy, yet very impactful way to make a difference,” said Mayor John Suthers. 

The campaign consists of three key elements 

  • Text-to-give functionality allows people to make a quick, online contribution to the campaign by texting HelpCOS to 667873 and donate via the United Way portal. One-hundred percent of donation income from the HelpCOS campaign will go to the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care. The Continuum of Care is a consortium of local service providers that offer services tailored to meet the diverse needs of the local homeless community. 
  • At the base of the campaign is a comprehensive website (www.helpcos.org) which aims to educate the public on the different ways to give: funds, items in kind, or volunteer service. The website also lists services available to those in need, which can be accessed by texting GetHelp to the campaign number.  (Those who text the short code receive a mobile link to this site).
  • Finally, a comprehensive public education campaign including videos, shareable social media assets and posters aims to inform local residents about the inefficiency and potential hazards of giving to panhandlers while re-directing generosity to local service providers who meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. For a full list of members of the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care, click here

“A lot of people are just not aware of the vast number of local non-profits who work in the trenches with individuals experiencing homelessness day in and day out,” said Beth Roalstad, chair of the PPCoC. “The needs of this population are as varied and diverse as the general population itself, but in Colorado Springs, we are very fortunate to have qualified and dedicated non-profits who specialize in serving these individuals.  We have organizations that focus on homeless youth, veterans, families, women. By supporting these organizations, residents help us reach more people in a way that is measurable and closely tracked

Meanwhile, those who give to panhandlers, while well-meaning, could be doing more to hurt than help, said City Council President Richard Skorman. “I understand and empathize with those who are moved to give to panhandlers,” said Skorman. “But what people don’t realize is that by doing so, they may unknowingly be supporting a negative substance abuse habit, creating a serious pedestrian safety issue or perpetuating an unhealthy lifestyle by discouraging people to find real help. That’s what’s so great about this HelpCOS effort. It gives people an instant way to make a measurable, positive difference.” 

Organizations like the Springs Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities or Urban Peak, by law are required to account for donations and expenditures.  

Campaign progress will be shared via an e-newsletter and regular media updates. At the end of the year, proceeds will be directed to local service providers through a requisition of funds process overseen by the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care.

To learn more about the HelpCOS campaign, click here