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Should L.A. Emulate Other Cities' Homeless Meters?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, July 02, 2008, at 10:05PM
Homeless Donation Meter Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Denver placed nearly 100 meters around Downtown as part of its Campaign to End Homelessness.

In March of 2007, the city of Denver deployed the first of 86 refurbished parking meters that now stand around Downtown, collecting donations as part of "Denver's Road Home," the city's ten-year campaign to end homelessness.

The meters have a two-fold purpose: collecting money that otherwise would go to panhandlers, and educating the public on the homeless situation and ways to get involved.

An October, 2007, article in USA Today said that the meters didn't generate significant revenue for homeless services, bringing in just $8,500 in the program's first six months. As an education tool, however, the meters seem to do the trick.

"I didn't know about 'Denver's Road Home' until I saw the meters," says [Christine] Bertin, 57, a federal employee who also collects change from co-workers. "I never felt comfortable giving money to (panhandlers). By the same token, it pulls your heartstrings. Now, when people say, 'Do you have a quarter?' I can look them straight in the eye and say, 'I gave at the meter.' "

Downtown L.A. is certainly no stranger to panhandling. Those asking for money aren't afraid of bending the truth to exact funding out of an uninformed public's guilt, talking of hunger while sitting just blocks away from missions with numerous meal times. Though certainly the money generated wouldn't compare to other funding sources, the donation meter concept seems like one the city would do well to consider.

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