A group affiliated with the Portland Business Alliance says it will change the messaging of a controversial downtown billboard, following pushback from citizens and the PBA's own preferred mayoral candidate.

The billboard, which shows a picture of a person holding a sign that reads "Your spare change funds my addictions", has sat on SW 4th and Morrison since earlier in the month. In that time it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, since it implies that anyone asking for change is only doing so to purchase drugs or alcohol.

As we reported last week, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the PBA's chosen candidate in this year's mayoral race, took the group to task for the messaging via Facebook. And an online petition for the sign's removal has nearly 1,000 signatures.


In an announcement today, the group Downtown Clean and Safe announced that, while it was "pleased to see the attention the current billboard brought to our outreach efforts," it plans on changing the billboard in coming weeks.

The signage is a component in a strategy the PBA's tried for decades—with no evident success in stifling panhandlers around town. The aim of the group's Real Change, Not Spare Change campaign is to convince people to give their extra money to social services that help the homeless, as opposed to the homeless themselves. The concept has mixed support among the city's homeless advocates.

Wheeler, by the way, wasn't the only candidate opposed to the billboard.

Hit the jump for the full statement from Clean and Safe Chair Mark Schlesinger.

The 4th & Morrison billboard is part of the Real Change program that has been conducted by Downtown Clean & Safe for more than two decades. The point of this program is to encourage Portlanders to give financially to social service agencies assisting the homeless rather than handing cash directly to panhandlers. We were pleased to see the attention the current billboard brought to our outreach efforts. Over the decades the messaging in this campaign has evolved, and our intention has been to point out varying aspects of the issue in different campaign phases. We are planning to change out the current billboard message and image in the coming weeks. We will, however, continue with our efforts to encourage support for nonprofits serving those in need. Most homeless individuals do not panhandle, and our research found the ones that do frequently use the cash to support unhealthy habits. Giving to panhandlers is a personal choice, but Clean & Safe wants to make sure Portlanders are aware that the most effective way to help homeless individuals move off the street into safe housing and productive lives is not to hand them an occasional dollar or two but, rather, to encourage their engagement with one of the many nonprofits serving Portland. We appreciate the many people who have offered us constructive comments about this campaign. To learn more, please go to http://www.realchangepdx.org.