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City Council looks into framework, feasibility of 'homeless donation meters'

By Hayley Fox
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2013, at 10:44AM
Flickr via Jim Nix / Nomadic Pursuits

A homeless donation meter in Denver. The City Council and LADOT are looking into what it would take to create a program like this in L.A.

L.A. City Council adopted a motion this week, asking the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to compile a report on the feasibility and framework of installing "homeless donation meters" throughout the city.

These meters would be created from L.A.'s discarded parking meters -- the ones with the coin slots that the City has worked to replace with new, credit-card friendly machines. These donation meters would be specially marked and people could deposit their spare change in the machine when they walked by. The proceeds would then be donated to homeless services in the city.

As of now, the details of how the program would work are undetermined. The meters are under the control of the LADOT, so the city council has merely asked them for a report on how this program could be implemented.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Councilman José Huizar, who first brought this idea to the table, got the idea from a story that Downtown blogger Brigham Yen wrote.

Yen told Blogdowntown that as much as the meters are about collecting donations, they're also about teaching people about panhandling.

“The idea is to educate the public that panhandling doesn’t actually help the homeless and that it exacerbates the situation..."

Yen said that often times giving money directly to homeless people ends up feeding a drug or alcohol addiction -- whereas if the money goes to a homeless program (such as Chrysalis or the Midnight Mission), it will be put towards services, food or housing.

Although L.A. may not have its own model for the program designed yet, there are many other cities that have installed this meter program with success. Yen reported in his blog that San Francisco, Miami and Orlando are among the cities already using these donation meters. Yen adds that Denver, which has 36 meters placed throughout the city, makes approximately $100,000 a year in homeless donations.

Yen said that if L.A. does begin installing these meters, the first ones should be placed on 7th street in Downtown near Figueroa, Flower and Grand; highly trafficked areas that attract a lot of pedestrians on a daily basis. The blogger has also already received calls from people in Hollywood and Pasadena about how they may go about installing these meters in their neighborhoods.

Finally, a meter you can feel good about feeding.

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