Archive for Friday, July 15, 2011

Lawrence city commissioners to consider ‘meter donations’ to combat panhandling downtown

July 15, 2011


The latest effort out of Lawrence City Hall to curtail downtown panhandling: Feed the meter if you want to feed somebody in need.

Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider a new program that makes it easier to donate spare change to local social service agencies rather than giving the money to downtown panhandlers.

“It seems like it is a chance to do something good without promoting panhandling,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said.

The program centers on the idea of “donation meters.” City crews would install old parking meters that the city currently has in inventory. The meters would be installed at strategic locations throughout downtown — perhaps near midblock crossings and breezeways — and would carry a different color scheme from ordinary meters. The meters would include signs that urge people to place their spare change in the meter rather than giving to a panhandler. The money from the meters then would be donated to social service agencies that serve the homeless.

“When I heard the idea, I just loved it,” said Cathy Hamilton, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. “I couldn’t really see a downside to it.”

Downtown merchants have frequently expressed concerns that the amount of panhandling in the area has made many shoppers uncomfortable.

The leader of the city’s lone homeless shelter said he also supported the program. Loring Henderson, director of the Lawrence Community Shelter, said the shelter’s staff discourages panhandling.

“If you have a way for folks to donate to the program right then and there, then they can tell the person seeking money that they’ve given to a program instead,” Henderson said.

The idea of donation meters has been implemented in several cities across the country, including Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami and Nashville.

The city is estimating that it would cost about $300 per meter to install the devices downtown. Staff members are asking commissioners for feedback on how many meters would be appropriate and where they should be located.

In the past, the city has contemplated banning panhandling in the downtown area, but city attorneys have said that likely would run afoul of the First Amendment. The city does have an aggressive-panhandling law, which makes it illegal to ask for money in certain hostile or persistent ways. But merchants have complained that the law is difficult to enforce.

Hamilton said she thinks the donation meter program has a chance to discourage panhandlers from being downtown by cutting down on the amount of donations they receive. But she said the program would require a significant public education campaign.

“I think we really need to reach out to students who come to the community in the fall,” Hamilton said. “Those are the people who are new and they want to do good. I’ve heard, percentage-wise, a lot of panhandlers get a bigger payback from students.”

City Commissioner Mike Amyx — a downtown barber shop owner — said he agreed that the city has to make it clear that aggressive panhandling won’t be tolerated. But he said he wants to hear more about the meter program before committing to it.

“I think we still have to look at the big picture here,” Amyx said. “People are going through a time that they need help.”


cheeseburger 6 years, 7 months ago

$300 to install a meter you already own by people you already employ? Wow!

If the meters are utilized, then zero tolerance for continued panhandling. Otherwise we've wasted $300 per meter and didn't solve the problem.

BlackVelvet 6 years, 7 months ago

Why doesn't the city donate $300 (for each meter they WOULD HAVE installed downtown) to the social service agencies and be done with it? And how is banning begging a violation of the first amendment? Oh yeah, you can do almost anything as long as you claim it's "freedom of expression"......

sourpuss 6 years, 7 months ago

Because the point is not to get money for social services, the point is to drive panhandlers out of downtown. If people know that no one will give them money, they will go away. In order for that, the meters have to be installed. If someone asks for money, the donator can just smile and put it into the meter. Panhandlers WILL leave if they get nothing for their efforts. I think it is a great idea. I abhor panhandling.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 7 months ago

This satisfies the dogooder;s "need" to help vicariously through a machine but the real person, the panhandler, is still un-satisfied and will not stop. Or is that what CB just said?

notanota 6 years, 7 months ago

They won't stop, but they will move somewhere else to panhandle.

ksriver2010 6 years, 7 months ago

"If you have a way for folks to donate to the program right then and there, then they can tell the person seeking money that they’ve given to a program instead,”

How is that any different than saying "I gave to the Human Fund" (ala Seinfeld)? I would think the panhandlers would flip you off if you told them that, and they may get even more obnoxious.

theotherphogg 6 years, 7 months ago

I suggest that if the downtown patrons decide to truly stop giving to panhandlers, it's possible that Lawrence would gain the reputation as a destination to avoid for many of these folks. As it is, many of us have given freely, often times to lazy but capable young people who just want beer and cigarettes. It's gotten so bad that I believe the free-loaders far outnumber the truly needy.

Currahee 6 years, 7 months ago

So what if MORE homeless come to Lawrence because of this. How do you divide up the "donations"?

pizzapete 6 years, 7 months ago

Great thinking guys, that should fix everything. Did you get this idea from the "Donate to the Ronald McDonald House" boxes they have on the counter at McDonalds?

Jstanobservation 6 years, 7 months ago

One clown gets an idea,they all want in on it.

skinny 6 years, 7 months ago

Great idea, just what we need more homeless people coming to Lawrence. We'll end up dealing with twice as many crimes then we do now with all the homeless! Let's NOT!

You cater to them and they WILL come!

ResQd 6 years, 7 months ago

I, personally, do not see how this will help. There will always be panhandlers who prey on the downtown shoppers, with intimidation and sympathy. The new students arriving in the Fall will be easy pickings because alof of them come from small towns and environments where they were taught to help the needy. I would suggest working with KU to get the word out about panhandling and putting signs in some of the store windows; that sounds like a cheaper alternative. Just my 2 cents!

Joe Hyde 6 years, 7 months ago

Excellent idea! Educate incoming KU and Haskell INU freshmen and transfers about this aspect of the local social habitat. Once warned, they'll be less likely to get taken in by swindlers and various other "people users", particularly ones who they first meet while walking a downtown sidewalk or being inside one of the businesses.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 7 months ago

Unless the proceeds of the meters are going to be handedd out for booze and smokes I don't believe this will stop beggers.

irvan moore 6 years, 7 months ago

i'm sure the panhandlers are smart enough to figure out the socoal service agencies aren't going to be giving them any of the money.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

So how many times are city officials going to replace broken meters before they decide that this is not the greatest idea?

notanota 6 years, 7 months ago

How often do they replace broken meters now?

Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

It seems that there is an idea here that would work and be appealing, but maybe not additional meters. People like to get something for their money. Perhaps one solution would be to choose one or two meters each block, and a person would park as always. But those meters would contribute to social agencies in the area. That way, people would have something for the money they give.

In the same light, every 10th lottery ticket could go to local agencies as well as the library.

And more to the point, to the establishment of small, local libraries in several points throughout Lawrence, where these would be accessible by people who find it difficult to get to the main library. I know this was brought up but not acted upon when the renovations for the new library was voted in, but I think it still has got a lot of merit. These small libraries could be in very small spaces in parts of Lawrence. They might even co-serve as SRS resource centers, instead of, as in the past, one large building.

sad_lawrencian 6 years, 7 months ago

I completely support this idea of satellite library branches. They could be strategically located throughout Lawrence, at a minimum cost to taxpayers. I used to live in Wichita, where there were small public library branches in many Dillons stores. It boggles my mind as to why Lawrence does not want (and seems dead-set against) smaller community branches for the public library. It would reduce congestion at the downtown library, and provide potential locations to pick up and drop off SRS forms (and get information about social-service programs). These locations would serve the needs of people who don't have reliable transportation or access to Internet workstations. Kansasplains1 is really onto something here.

Jeremiah Jefferson 6 years, 7 months ago

I would say that a couple cops on foot with billy clubs would solve the issue of panhandlers rather easily

Ray_Finkle 6 years, 7 months ago

I say, instead of donating to the bums or the charity meters, people should just keep their money. When accosted, just say "There's no such thing as spare change, you dirty lazy Bum. Your revolution is over. The bums lost. You hear me bum? The bums lost!"

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

That is just about the most heartless and arrogant thing you wrote. You know alot of people are just a paycheck away from being poor. Whose to say a tornado won't hit your house, or you loose your job or some other catastrophe happens to you and leaves you homeless? You never know when you might be on the receiving end of needing help. I don't know what is wrong with people today.

Tim Quest 6 years, 7 months ago

My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose!

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

I think this is just about the most ridulously snobbish thing I've ever heard. How in the heck does that help someone who needs $$ right away for something to eat or drink? Especially if they are several blocks away from a homeless kitchen? What if the place was closed and they couldn't get food or water? Just another attempt of controlling people. I go downtown often, but haven't run into that many homeless asking me for $$ and when they do if I don't have it I don't have it and they've never gotten nasty to me - but if I have a dollar or some change to spare I will give it to them. I can't believe how petty, selfish and snobby our society has become. The town of Maria Antionettes because she had the same mentality. I say you'd better get use to panhandlers because if our ecomony doesn't improve, with SRS closing, and they raise the retirement age with no one wanting to hire 55 + over there will be a lot more homeless on these streets panhandling then there are today. Haven't you people have something better to do with your time and && than bullcrap such as this?

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Several blocks is too far to go to get to the homeless kitchen?

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 7 months ago

Can we designate one for Compton and limit his citywide mooching to the proceeds from it? The Macelli's guy too.

3up3down 6 years, 7 months ago

Great idea. Now use the donations as bus fare and get them out of town.

Scott Kaiser 6 years, 7 months ago

In the photo of the fellow in the green shirt, do I see a cigarette in his right hand? How much do cigarettes cost nowadays? Enough for a meal at a fast food restaurant? Seems these people would have you support their "habits"---Food is down near the bottom of their list.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Isn't panhandling solicitation? Pass a law requiring a permit to solicit in the city (If it's not a law already) and ENFORCE IT! I bet 99% of them have some reason not to give their REAL name and location for the application..

Randall Uhrich 6 years, 7 months ago

Dumbest idea I've ever heard of! Make it a misdemeanor to give to panhandlers and all this crap will stop, plus will give the person solicited an out.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 7 months ago

There is an assumption that the panhandlers would understand the system and consider it useful. This proposal sounds as effective as the signs declaring drug free school zones. It's a bureaucratic attempt to solve a problem.

jayhawk72 6 years, 7 months ago

most of the panhandlers choose to be where they are in life. It's going to be up to the citizens of Lawrence to take care of this. When we hand them spare change or money we are enabling them to live their lives this way. put them all to work building the new shelter, if it ever gets built.

ashmole 6 years, 7 months ago

What a silly bleedingheart idea. I dislike walking down Mass Street because of all the foul smelling lowlifes and panhandlers. It's sad that downtown businesses have to have cans of air freshener at the ready for when a "stinker" walks into the store. The Commission needs to man-up and take on the transient problem in Lawrence. And the Lawrence Police need to be empowered to take a firmer stand against the dead-beats: Lawrence cops are soft and passive and always fall back on "community values" as a reason not to keep the crazies, filthy indolents, and begging indolents moving down the sidewalk and out of town.

youngjayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

I believe it is an excellent idea and certainly one worth trying. Anything to discourage panhandlers. Education is important also. Let's give it a go!

Jstanobservation 6 years, 7 months ago

Almost as smart and relevant as the comment just above it.

Liberty275 6 years, 7 months ago

OK, put up the meters and let people give from their heart. That's a wonderful idea. However, it isn't wonderful enough to justify violating a person's right to expression and association.

Even though the idea makes you feel good all over, we don' t have money to blow on bum-meters.

Just give the money to the community shelter. At least that way people will actually be fed and money won't be wasted maintaining and collecting from out of date utility equipment.

Kat Christian 6 years, 7 months ago

And just how much of that meter $$ will ACTUALLY get to help a homeless person after is goes through so many processes. How much will be spent on administrative cost? How much on building rent, utilities, etc. Just how much will the homeless actually benefit from these meters? I'm very skeptical and I will not donate to these meters - insteadI will give to a homeless person directly if I have the change.

sasquatch 6 years, 7 months ago

Really, this is such a poor idea I'm surprised it even saw the light of day. If our city leaders seriously think this will solve the panhandling problem then their heads are deeper in the sand than I thought. There are numerous ways around the city to help the poor, but this is the most lame effort I've ever heard. Seriously, someone please bring common sense back to Lawrence.

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