Spare a dime?
San Francisco, Denver, Baltimore and several other cities have installed “homeless meters” on their downtown sidewalks to discourage residents from giving money directly to panhandlers. Instead, good Samaritans can deposit money in the meters to support homelessness programs in the cities. However, Seattle discontinued a similar program after advocates claimed the meters were actually a clandestine attempt to drive the homeless from the community.
American City & County asked the readers of its weekly e-mail newsletter if panhandling is a problem and, if so, whether homeless meters are an effective way of dealing with it. Below are some of the responses.
“The meters in Baltimore are very attractive and in the convention center area strike visitors as a curiosity / novelty. Most consider them urban art or an effort at recycling vintage hardware. The fun ends there. The meters do not discourage the unsuspecting from having to cough up money to [the homeless] they believe may physically assault them if they said, ‘I put my money in the meter.’”
— Rick Hotchkiss, managing member, The Hotchkiss Group, Baltimore
“Panhandlers need to be given a chance. There are many reasons that they are at that point in their lives. Offer food and shelter to them. Have the state help retrain them to better the community and better themselves. Helping them restructure the city and cleaning it up will better serve the community in a greater way than just pushing them away to let some other city deal with them and destroy their community.
This will take a lot of work and volunteers. It will not be easy trying to encourage someone to change [his or her] way of life. There are many programs and shelters to help [local officials] start programs and continue them. Write for grants to assist in compensation for food, shelter, clothing, education and transportation. There are many people that will help and others that will get in your way. [Governments should] encourage donations by money and volunteerism.”
— First Lt. John McElhenny, Lewes, Del., Fire Department