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Signs to cut down on solicitation lead to hope in Salem

ROANOKE, Va.- – There are literally signs of hope in Salem. A unique partnership to cut down on panhandling in the city is getting some attention.

The signs are located at Apperson Drive and Route 419 as well as Wildwood Road and West Main Street in Salem. The signs are asking people not to solicit in the medians.

If you need help, the city wants you to call a number linking you to Arch in Roanoke. Arch provides safe recovery after addiction and homelessness through Bethany Hall and the Trust House.

"We provide food, We provide hygiene products. We get them to any services that they need out of the community whether it be substance-abuse treatment, mental or health medical," Jeanne McCormack, executive director, said.   

Although the sign doesn't say panhandling, Salem has a ordinance prohibiting solicitations on highways, which is listed in the city code:

Sec. 86-17. - Distribution of handbills, etc., solicitation of contributions, and sale of merchandise, services, etc., on highways prohibited.
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It shall be unlawful for any person to:

(a) Distribute handbills, leaflets, bulletins, literature, advertisements, or similar material to occupants of motor vehicles on highways located within the boundaries of the city or on public roadways and medians, or (b) Solicit contributions of any nature from the occupants of motor vehicles on highways within the boundaries of the city or on public roadways and medians, or (c) Sell merchandise or services or attempt to sell merchandise or services to occupants of motor vehicles on highways located within the boundaries of the city or on public roadways and medians.

"People who were stopping to help would get injured or the people asking for money. They kind of wanted to stop that distraction," said  McCormack. 

Since the signs went up, they've been getting several calls and emails a day from people asking about their services. And it's not always from people with addictions.

"A lot of the times it's been people that are stuck here that are trying to get back home because they have family somewhere else and they don't know how to get back to Idaho or Montana. We do have organizations in the community that can help with bus passes to get them back to those family members," said McCormack. 

Arch believes this signs goes along with its mission of giving people second chances and new beginnings.