Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Meters for Panhandlers a New Idea

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Meters for Panhandlers a New Idea

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

Here's an idea as to how Jacksonville can reuse its antiquated, quarters-only parking meters to deal with another downtown dilemma.

They can be recycled so that people can still put change in them - except that change would go to non-profits that cater to poor and homeless people and not to panhandlers.

Being confronted by panhandlers is one of the main reasons why many people here claim they avoid downtown, and the concern has often hamstrung efforts to revitalize the city's core.

Over the years panhandling has become a problem all over the country - so much so that cities such as Olympia, Wash., and Arlington, Texas, have come up with laws that ban begging from within so many feet of an ATM, while cities like Memphis and Raleigh, N.C. now issue licenses to beggars.

How surreal. Panhandling has become so commonplace that it's now regulated through licensing.

Nonetheless, one of the reasons that panhandlers persist is because people give them money.

That's understandable; many people have a hard time turning their backs on people who may really be hungry, or who may really need money to catch the bus or to buy gas for a stalled car, or whose comfort or survival for that day could depend on the dollar they can spare. Many times, though, panhandlers don't use that money to buy food or for bus fare, but for alcohol or drugs.

Hence the donation meters.

They're already being tried in cities such as Cleveland, Nashville and Atlanta. Miami-Dade County, which installed its first meter seven months ago, has collected about $12,000 in pure meter donations. It is now working to build more, according to the Miami Herald.

Dawn Gilman, executive director of the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition of Northeast Florida, said she likes the meter idea.

"We have inquired about that, because as they [the city] put in the new smart meters, they're going to be left with a few more meters," Gilman told me. …

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