Society

Cities Take Money Meant For Homeless To 'Help' Homeless

| by Michael Allen

Some cities in the U.S. have installed parking-style donation meters where people can give money to the cities, instead of homeless people, to help homeless people.

According to The Associated Press, New Haven, Connecticut, recently joined other cities such as Indianapolis, Miami, Orlando, Florida, Pasadena, California, and Corpus Christi, Texas, in this effort to compete with homeless people for funds.

The money collected in New Haven is supposed to go to programs and organizations which help the homeless. The meters are set up in areas where the city considers lawful panhandling to be a problem.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said: "It’s meant to generate supplemental funds for homeless services and steer well-meaning, generously donated cash away from the business of panhandling."

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Harp essentially panhandled in more sophisticated ways for political donations in 2013, which she drew from across the state, noted the New Haven Independent.

Julie Smith, of Denver’s Road Home that runs the meter program in that city, told the AP: "We get at least one call a month from cities who are looking to replicate the program."

The Denver Post reported in June that the city was going to use its Homeless Donation Fund to pay for the police removal of homeless camps in the city, but changed its mind after KCNC announced it was doing a story about "diverted homeless donations."

Joe Drury, a 57-year-old homeless man in Annapolis, Maryland, told the AP: "These meters just sit here all day, but nobody gives me nothing. I can sometimes go a whole day without eating."

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Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, said that the meters raise about $50,000 per year:

Half the people, in my opinion, who panhandle in Miami and Dade County are not homeless; they have a place to go at night. I assure you, [they] are not using that spare change to buy services, beds or food.

And I can tell you that panhandlers don’t like my meters because it gives people an alternative to dumping money into their buckets, cups and hats.

The Miami Herald reported in May that the city sued the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust in 2015 for it to pay $100,000 for sleeping mats so that Miami's homeless shelter, which was overflowing, could house people outside.

Book, who works as a lobbyist, insisted that the sleeping mats were a violation of U.S. policy to spend money on beds for the homeless.

Book also opposed an effort to have the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust fund portable restrooms for the homeless.

Sources: The Associated Press via CBS News, New Haven Independent, Miami Herald, The Denver Post / Photo credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News

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