Ten new parking meters may soon appear downtown, not to collect change for cars parked on the street, but to help the people asking for change on the sidewalk.
City traffic tsar Doug Hausladen and his deputy, Mike Mohler, sketched out that idea for alders Wednesday night in City Hall, during their testimony at a marathon Finance Committee budget hearing.
As part of the Finance Committee’s study of Mayor Toni Harp’s proposed $511 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, alders Wednesday heard testimony from a number of city departments seeking to justify their piece of city spending.
While listing the plans and achievements of his Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, Hausladen revealed a plan in the works to create a new way for people to give money to fund social services for the hungry or homeless.
The plan, modeled on programs in other cities, would be called “Give Change to Make Change.” The city would install, at various spots downtown, parking meters that would collect donations for community services — like food for the hungry and shelter or getting-back-on-their-feet help for the homeless. Hausladen said the idea is still in the early stages, and the precise beneficiary is yet to be determined.
The meters would be installed not at parking spots, but installed in public spaces, where people could deposit coins or swipe credit cards to give money. The meters would be accompanied by signs explaining the program.
Hausladen has already secured the donation of 10 credit-card-accepting meters from the company that provides them to the city for parking-fee collection. Hausladen said the meter company, IPS Group, told him that helping people is part of its mission. It’s also hoping to showcase the program at an international parking convention in a few weeks, Mohler said.
Hausladen said he got the idea from a parking-themed calendar in Mohler’s office, which highlights Denver’s donation meter program. Denver is one of a number of cities that use parking meters to collect donations for the poor or homeless, including Virginia Beach, San Luis Obispo.
Mohler told alders Wednesday evening that the money collected would help the homeless, and that the availability of the meters would discourage panhandling. Denver reduced the number of panhandlers on one street by 80 percent, according to USA Today.
East Rock Alder Jessica Holmes said she’d like to see more study of the impact of the donation meters on panhandlers. “We don’t want to make anyone’s life harder.” She said she’d like to know more about where the donated money would go and if it would directly assist the people asking for money on the street.
Board of Alders President Jorge Perez said Hausladen needs to make a presentation to the appropriate alder committee, even if the idea is budget neutral.
Hausladen said later that he hopes to submit a detailed proposal to the Board of Alders in the next couple of weeks. The Give Change to Make Change meters could appear this summer.
In 1993, Matthew Lieberman and fellow Yale law students launched a program called New Haven Cares for people who wanted to give money to the homeless but felt uncomfortable giving out change to panhandlers because they weren’t sure how the donations would be used. Donors would purchase vouchers they would then hand to panhandlers; the panhandlers could use the vouchers at some participating food establishments. The program lasted a few years, with a later attempt to revive it.
Appeared in New Haven Independent | by| May 1, 2014 7:55 am