“Keep Your Purchase” supporters boycott businesses against panhandling

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MILWAUKEE -- It started as an initiative to stop panhandling: signs at Milwaukee businesses asking customers to "keep the change." But one group is calling it "poverty shaming."

There are signs outside most Milwaukee businesses trying to draw people in with deals of the day or of the season but this year, signs are asking customers for something else.

Keep the Change

Keep the Change

"Giving them money is not the best thing to do for them," said Terry Witkowski, Milwaukee Alderman.

The "Keep the Change" initiative started in January as a way to stop panhandling, encouraging people instead to donate to agencies that can help.

Keep the Change

Keep the Change

Alderman Witkowski helped spearhead the effort.

"It was better for people to support those agencies that maybe can provide a permanent solution," said Witkowski.

The signs are voluntary to put up but not everyone is convinced they're helping.

"They made a shaming poster and put it up in their window," said Stephanie Roades, Surj Milwaukee.

Stephanie Roades is part of a Facebook group called "Keep Your Purchase." The group is asking people to boycott stores and restaurants that have the signs.

Keep Your Purchase Facebook Page

Keep Your Purchase Facebook Page

"I don't want to see these signs up in my city. I think it's gross and it's just hurting a group of people that are already hurting," said Roades.

Many businesses have since taken them down. Alderman Witkowski says they're misunderstood.

Keep the Change

Keep the Change

"We went with an education program to tell the public: your money is better going to an agency that can help these people than giving them a couple bucks," said Witkowski.

Alderman Witkoski says a handful of cities have similar initiatives. He also says there's are no plans to end the program in the foreseeable future.

Both sides agree there is a problem but they just can't agree on a way to solve it.



  • marcus wilson

    some of these hobos are really violent,others are too lazy to work. met one guy he was panning for money to get chicken. dressed very nice when i syggested he get a job he insulted me got into his newer cadillac and sped off. saw him later about a mile away same old same old

  • john

    People Stop giving money to panhandlers it helps feed drug addictions and other issues were if you donate it to a community out reach program it can be put to better use helping the homeless. Also most of the pan handlers are not homeless its just an easy way to make a buck. IF they do not have a big bag filled with stuff or there shoes are super nice and clean they are not homeless.

  • Grace

    Who isn’t torn up by their looks,they have seniors begging for money ,thing is I’ve parked nearby to observe and have seen their other partners hit them up saying that’s all you’ve got?you better make more.and taken it.why can’t the city arrest these real old seniors as they are abused!!!i asked one guy why they made a lady beg he said her money buys the drugs and to mind my own business.when you groups at a park all strung out its because they have a happy little pack of drunks and yes,some are real homeless but mostly you can observe they sit to ask for beer change.so support a good cause like Milwaukee angels outreach or donate to a homeless shelter because I’m tired of supporting k2,beer and heroin addicts.they ask for food then if they see you have more money they get mad asking for more.they only get arrested if they get caught fighting .so watch your valuables,who’s creeping around your blocks and this winter when they can’t panhandle I guess they’ll be breaking and entering.


    Ive seen them writing out their cardboard sign on the tail gate of their pickup and leaving a pile of steel reserve beer cans and alcohol among the heap of trash they accumulate at the stop lights/off ramps/ and store fronts….Great idea, keep enabling them and keep our city filthy

  • Natasha

    I agree 100%. I do not support pan handling. I did help out for too many years and it got ridiculous and out of hand. Walk or drive by 27th and Ohio area and there is an African American man asking for $0.60. Yes a specific amount he has been doing it for over 6 years. I offered to by him food and he said he didn’t want food but he wanted $0.60. Drive my 27th and Layton and 4 people take turns at the stop lights asking for $2.00 because they are out of gas or need the bus. I saw the police chase them a few weeks and then ran! Yes they ran even the one with crutches ran. This is ridiculous. Multiple studies have shown that these people end up making more money than those who actually go out and work 40 hours a week to support there families. Now I see kids doing it outside of drive thrus. What in the world is that? In those cases I have actually bought them food. Why? Because I know that there are a lot of irresponsible, drug addict parents who so not feed their child. Instead they sell there food stamps to get stones up. Besides those children…you need money find a job. Period!

  • Chattipatti

    There is one on the that looked at me and was like I know u got some money to give, I’m looking at him like I know there is a job out there somewhere. Omg its so annoying, and the city needs to do something, you don’t see beggars out in Brookfield.

  • Metal Maniac

    Lol wowwww Faux 6, a whopping 54 people. Holy smokes that’s gonna change the world as we know it.

    Sometimes i give the bums the finger, sometimes i talk with them. 99% of them just want beer money or drug money. I almost always see the same ones in the same places. They aren’t hungry because food stamps pays them $200 a month. Never feel guilty, if you are homeless you are not out of the game completely. There are several groups that will help you. The Department of Workforce development is a good start.

  • jim (a different jim)

    I watched one at the off ramp at national in west allis. He stood there for a couple minutes when the traffic was backed up. Once the traffic cleared out he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and went behind the sound barrier to take/make a call. Another on the corner of 43rd and Forrest home after brewer games who has some rather nice shoes.

    I won’t give them a dime. It’s not shaming. It’s keeping your business and surrounding area welcoming for customers who don’t want to be harrassed.

  • Chrisco

    Last summer Fox6 run a story about following around a few homeless people. I do not remember how many but I do remember 6 of them who live in Brookfield and Elm Groove and drive into the city to pan handle. 2 of the guys drove BMW’s and parked around the corner. Out of those 2 on owned a $450,000 house. I bookmarked the story for this reason but the link now says 404 error can not be found otherwise I would gladly post it.

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