By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s Center City District is reviving a campaign that discourages giving money to panhandlers and, with help from advocates and city officials, is trying to channel the giving instinct in other directions. An event on Thursday will connect those who want to help with those who make a difference.

Anyone who lives or works in Center City has heard the plea: Can you help me get something to eat? Can you give me a dollar to help me get home?.

“At that moment, we understand that impulse to help,” said Center City District director Paul Levy.

Levy doesn’t want to curb that impulse, but he does want you to say “no” — because giving that way may inadvertently make the problem worse.

“You’re probably just feeding an addiction, so here’s a better way to help.

Levy is working with Office of Homeless Services director Liz Hersh on an “Open House” to connect would-be givers with some 30 non-profits that do what spare change can’t.

“People really want to be part of the solution and it’s really hard to know what to do as an individual that can help,” Hersh said. “If these non-profits had more people helping them, more money, more people helping them, they could actually solve more problems.”

The solutions, she says, are as big as the problem — jobs, housing and services — but they can be aided by individual efforts.

“Especially at this time of year, the season of giving, it’s really to give people opportunities to help those who are more vulnerable in a way that really is constructive and doesn’t inadvertently make the problems worse.”

The event is at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday, December 15 from 4 to 7pm.