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San Francisco Ad Campaign Portrays Homeless as Druggies and Hurtful to Business

"Today we rode a cable car, visited Alcatraz and supported a drug habit"
"Today I adopted a cat, gave some change and shut down my corner grocer"

Those are the headlines of a new ad campaign for the Hotel Council of San Francisco. The campaign is designed to fight panhandling which has a long history in the city. The Council says the problem is growing and is tarnishing the city's image as a world-class travel destination. They hope they campaign can convince the general public that giving to panhandlers is hurtful to the city's image.

"I think that's really cold. I know a whole bunch of people who aren't on drugs or alcohol," said Carol Oyama, 60. "People give me $20s, $5s, $10s and they give it to me because they want to, not because they have to."

Mayor Wille Brown doesn't like the campaign either and said through his spokesman, "Negative publicity is just a poor way to drum up business, and this seems to be falling on one's own sword."

Hoteliers have a different opinion.

"It's been a major complaint of groups coming in, saying, 'Why don't you do something about this?"' said Robert Begley, the council's director. "When we're on sales trips, the first question we normally get today is, 'What has happened to San Francisco?"'

So what's the solution? Kick the homeless out? Make giving to the homeless illegal? Nobody really has the answer but to deploy an ad campaign that portrays all homeless people as being alcoholics or drug addicts or a general nuisance really isn't a very neighborly solution.

UPDATE: Read The Homeless Guy's take on this in the Comments section below.
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Written by Steve Hall    Comments (0)     May- 2-03  

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