Public Engagement Guide


Download an Engagement Guide for yourself or your organization with the links below!

What we did:

There have been several City council resolutions in the last couple of years intended to curb panhandling and encourage giving to charities as an alternative. Through research with AHCA, the iTeam learned that panhandling is a complicated, two-sided transaction. In most cases, the donor participates in the transaction to make a direct connection with someone in need. People panhandling can feel stigmatized because of their work and also seek connection and affirming, positive interactions.


For these reasons, it is unlikely that the City is going to be able to significantly curb panhandling transactions through a campaign but we could influence people to use these small interactions as an opportunity to engage more meaningfully with people experiencing homelessness and consider alternatives to giving cash. Based on what we learned in our discovery process this ultimately can be valuable in solving someone's homelessness because affirmation and encouragement supports  people on a resilient path.   


The Public Guide is a poster with information about how people in our community can help people experiencing homelessness in Austin, including alternatives donating to panhandlers. The campaign encourages the public to practice habits that can impact the issue on a system-level, like donating, volunteering, and advocating. 

What we learned

  • When people are aware of the small ways they can help, it will increase confidence when interacting with people experiencing homelessness and decrease negative emotions about homelessness.

  • Exposure to the guide will increase the likelihood that someone will show kindness to someone experiencing homelessness.


  • We encourage the City and other organizations to used and promote the Public Engagement guide to improve interactions with people experiencing homelessness and address and redirect generous instincts away from giving cash to other affirming and impactful contributions. 

  • Content from the guide should be used in efforts to improve community commitment (see the endorsed Action Plan to End Homelessness, Objective 5.2) or other campaigns like the Empathy Building Campaign