A billboard that went up recently in downtown Milford encourages people to not give money to panhandlers, but rather to give it to agencies that help the needy.

Beginning in 2014, members from various sectors of the Milford community met as part of the Mayor’s Have a Heart, Give Smart Task Force to develop a strategy to address the issue of panhandling in Milford.

The task force is made up of representatives from municipal agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations in Milford that are impacted by or provide services for the needy.

The task force recommended the launch of an awareness campaign called "Have a Heart, Give Smart," an effort to address what it found are often the root causes of panhandling, city officials said in a press release issued this week.

The focus of the campaign is to educate and encourage members of the public to find alternative ways of giving by making donations to local human service agencies that provide help for those in need, rather than giving money directly to panhandlers.

"What we were trying to accomplish is an attempt to better meet the needs of those who actually panhandle while addressing the concerns of community members,” said Mayor Ben Blake. “We as a city need to ensure that these individuals have access to the numerous services available to them through local social support agencies.”

The Have a Heart, Give Smart campaign launched this week with the release of the billboard in downtown Milford.

The task force also plans to provide educational material throughout the community regarding panhandling and the importance of giving to local agencies that can provide lasting assistance to individuals in need, city officials said.

Finally, as part of the campaign, task force members will conduct outreach and provide information to panhandlers in Milford regarding local services available to assist them.