Archive for Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lawrence City Commission sold on trying donation meter plan

July 19, 2011


When it comes to “donation meters,” sign Lawrence city commissioners up.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting unanimously agreed to move ahead with a plan aimed at discouraging panhandlers by giving pedestrians a new way to donate spare change.

“I think it might redirect people’s charitable instincts to institutions where the money can be better used than giving it to somebody on the streets,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell.

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 carry a different color scheme than ordinary parking meters and also would include signs that urge people to place their spare change in the meter rather than giving to a panhandler.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners directed staff members to come back with a detailed implementation plan. Cromwell suggested the city install anywhere from eight to 16 meters along Massachusetts Street in downtown. But commissioners did not discuss exact location for any of the meters.

Staff members were told to explore the possibility of a sponsorship program for the meters. Some cities have allowed businesses to sponsor the cost of installing the meter. The city currently is estimating it will cost about $300 to prepare the meters and to install them.

Commissioners said they also would need to designate a social service agency to receive the money. Cromwell said he would lobby for the money to go to the Lawrence Community Shelter.

The city does not have an estimate on how much money the meters may generate. Commissioners, though, said they thought the presence of the meters would serve as a good reminder to people that there are better ways to help the homeless than to give to panhandlers.

“I think it is a great idea because it is a visible effort to combat a problem in downtown,” Commissioner Hugh Carter said.

Commissioners should receive an implementation report in the next several weeks.


Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 9 months ago

Please look at my comments from the original article. I thought I had a very good idea, but Cromwell isn't even interested enough to see it. It doesn't surprise me at this point.

DillonBarnes 6 years, 9 months ago

I don't think the comment section of the local newspaper is the correct way to voice your opinion to the city council. You might as well be blaming him for not reading what you wrote in your diary.

Kontum1972 6 years, 9 months ago

well of course you have no real political aspirations....its like the company suggestion box..mgmt., ask's u submit..they look...if they like it...they sit on it for a few months then they use it as they roll it into their goals and accomplishments.

sad_lawrencian 6 years, 9 months ago

I think this is a very good idea. I hope the city moves forward with the donation meters. In my opinion it's one of the best ideas put forth by city commission in some time.

sulliedotcom 6 years, 9 months ago

The idea is that people will donate to the meters instead, thus forcing the panhandlers to go else where.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 9 months ago

It should also go to places like the Recovery and Hope Network (RAHN), Inc. that help the mentally ill homeless control their symptoms and avoid relapse so that they can move from homelessness to recovery.

Kim Murphree 6 years, 9 months ago

No...the money should go to the homeless shelter...the Community Shelter is the ONLY place homeless have to go in this blistering heat. I don't know what the aversion is, but there is no doubt that if you do not allow people to panhandle, they will be at the Shelter, and if the Shelter does not receive enough money to expand or relocate, those same people will be back downtown panhandling to survive. Support the Community Shelter--Loring Henderson is the best person to give the project money to--he and his staff are the only one dedicated to getting these people back on their feet and off the street.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 9 months ago

Excuse me????? I'm looking around here at RAHN right now. Of the 21 mental health consumers here at the moment, only 2 are NOT homeless.

Apparently you don't realize that 30% of the homeless people here in Lawrence have severe and persistent mental illnesses...and LCS does not provide any mental health services to a single one of them. We do, though. And the homeless mentally ill specifically come to RAHN to get away from all the drama and stress at LCS. To find a safe place where they can work on their recovery and avoid relapse.

As an aside, it's not lack of money that's been the stumbling block for getting a new's the "not in my back yard" folks. You've apparently got an awful lot to learn about homeless services and homeless issues in Lawrence, Kansas.

John Yocum 6 years, 9 months ago

I agree with cheeseburger on this. When I read the first article, I thought to myself "So is each of the guys who always asks me for money when I walk downtown going to get his own meter? Where are they going to put them all?" This is a great idea for ORGANIZED groups who are in need of money, but the guy who jumps out in front of me and chases my son because he doesn't like the t-shirt he's wearing is not going to be replaced by a meter.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 9 months ago

Panhandling is BAD, so we're installing automated, metal pole panhandlers! YAY!

Noweigh 6 years, 9 months ago

"Donation meters"? Only in Lawrence of course. I'll support them provided there is also a strongly worded ordinance that prohibits direct panhandling across the city, not just downtown. Panhandling will not go away without such an ordinance and strict enforcement. Why we can't ever hit real problems head on continues to amaze me.

MrMEtoo 6 years, 9 months ago

And Iowa City... a beautiful college town I was in this weekend and was not bothered by the typical cast of panhandlers I see on Mass Street. The donation meters are clearly marked, no confusion, and seem to be a solid implementation for the city. If the Lawrence wants a projected outcome they should contact Iowa City being that the demographics of both cities are close to the same.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 9 months ago

Don't forget that 30% have severe and persistent mental illnesses. Including returning vets with PTSD. I hope you're not going to cast them aside, too.

BruceWayne 6 years, 9 months ago

This is a terrible idea that will end up costing more than it makes. NOT why I voted for these clowns.

John Hamm 6 years, 9 months ago

Now various city commissions have given us a lot to laugh about but this one takes the cake!

50YearResident 6 years, 9 months ago

"Commissioners said they also would need to designate a social service agency to receive the money. Cromwell said he would lobby for the money to go to the Lawrence Community Shelter"

Put the fox in charge of watching over the "hen house", Great Idea!

Brock Masters 6 years, 9 months ago

Once we put money into the meters it becomes public dollars. Like any other public dollars disbusrse to private organizations, there should be specifications for whom the money can go to, for what purpose and an audit/evaluation of the use of those funds.

I am assuming the city will have their workers collect the money from the meters. Will this increase their work necessitating more workers? If so, how will these workers be funded?

Just like bears that hang out at dumps, I am sure the panhandlers will know to hang near the meters to do their panhandling. Why wait for the change to come to you, go where the change is.

hipper_than_hip 6 years, 9 months ago

Will the money be spent by an agency on goods & services, or will it be handed out to individuals to be spent on whatever? Is there a vetting process to get a share of the donations, like attending job training, talking to mental health professionals, etc?

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

If you look at the article, the suggestion is to make those funds available to the Lawrence Community Shelter.

Brock Masters 6 years, 9 months ago

Correct. I wonder if they get the money in the form of a blank check or will the money be designated for a specific purpose?

Brock Masters 6 years, 9 months ago

People are donating money and should have an idea how that money is being used. Government is responsible to its people to make appropriate use of their funds. Once the money leaves the hands of the individual and is given to the government, it becomes public funds.

Thus, the government has a responsiblity to use those funds appropriately and to make sure there is accountability for their use.

It may be appropriate to give the funds to the LCS with no expectations and for them to use however they see fit. However, LCS may not be the ultimate recipient as it is only a suggestion right now, so some other organization my lobby and receive the funds and without any direction on their use, might use them in a manner not intended - raises for employees. Again, that might not be bad, but once it leaves the individual's hands it becomes our money and we should make sure all our money is used appropriately.

droppinplates 6 years, 9 months ago

I'd like someone to explain how this combats panhandling. The people on the streets asking for money have no more access to this money than they do the money in the parking meters. How does this stop the guy who wants a cup of coffee, or a 40oz., or a pack of cigs from asking people for money? Now it looks like the city is panhandling. And who/how do they decide who gets the "donations"?

And BTW, last time I checked, Lawrence is not Denver, Salt Lake City or Virginia Beach. What a dumb comparison.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

If people stop giving money to the panhandlers, and donate it instead to the meters, then panhandling should decrease.

droppinplates 6 years, 9 months ago

Why? How does putting money in a meter satisfy the guy sitting on the curb asking for money? Is this money going to be given to people without discretion or any kind of stipulation? If so, it's a terrible idea. If there are rules to follow in order to get money, the aggressive panhandlers that want a bottle of vodka or a pack of cigarettes probably won't care to follow any rules and will still be harrassing people. Will they be responsible with what they are given, or blow it all on Monday and be back on the sidewalk the rest of the week? Or they will eventually figure out how to get around the rules and they'll still be a menace. While I understand this may not apply to all panhandlers, I just don't see it making much of a difference.

Brock Masters 6 years, 9 months ago

I think the idea is to get the people downtown to put their spare change into a meter instead of giving it to a panhandler. It most likely won't work, but the idea is if people don't give to the panhandlers then the panhandlers will move onto other areas that are more "profitable." The meter allows the person putting change into it to feel good and removes their spare change that they might be tempted to give to a panhandler.

The meter money won't go directly to individuals, but to an organization.

droppinplates 6 years, 9 months ago

Ok. So this is an attempt to stop panhandling by foucusing on those who give as opposed to those who ask. That's interesting and sad on many levels, but I get it. A small number of people causing a situation that is only made worse by a greater number of people with no self control, so government steps in to save everyone from each other. Awesome! Can't wait to see how it works out.

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

They're putting up places for voluntary charity donations, not installing CCTVs for Big Brother. Sheesh.

parrothead8 6 years, 9 months ago

Why not set up the meters to have the donations go towards different charities, instead of having them all go towards the same one? Maybe have one for the Humane Society, one for the Community Shelter, one for the City Commissioners...oops, I guess they're not "technically" a charity. Anyway, I'd like to choose who gets my donation, and I'm much less likely to donate at all if I don't have a choice.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

Do you know of/participate in the Give Back card?

I think the idea of the funds going towards a charity that helps homeless folks is to actually help the people panhandling, rather than enabling them.

sr80 6 years, 9 months ago

Now the donors will be blamed for donating to a panhandler instead of the machine,nothing will be solved by this assinine solution!

budwhysir 6 years, 9 months ago

And I am sure that research has been done to ensure that this money is not redirected to any other funds???

heyheymama 6 years, 9 months ago

meters don't panhandle, people panhandle.

achtung 6 years, 9 months ago

"When it comes to “donation meters,” sign Lawrence city commissioners up." Nice way to start a story UP.

radicool12 6 years, 9 months ago

ok i think it isd a good idea but heres the thing you want the panhandlers to stop asking for money. i think they would stop asking for it if the govenment would stop sending all our jobs overseas to be made cheaper it is hard to get a job in this economy even with a college education so before everyone goes and gives to these machines remeber one thing all the money you put in there will just help the government pay for their salerys and all of their expenses. also remeber this country was supposed to be the land of the free we are not free to do what we want or say what we want i dare on normal citizen to walk up to a cop and say to him your a pig or im gonna hit you i gurantee you will get arrested

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 7 months ago

$100+ a DAY? Tax FREE? I'd change my job if you can prove this.

Tom McCune 6 years, 9 months ago

If I owned a downtown retail business, I would pay the $300 "sponsorship" fee only if the city then designated the sidewalk in front of my place of business as a "bum free zone" and empowered the LPD to give the old fashioned "bum's rush" to any violators. Heck, I'd even plug the meter for that!

Tom McCune 6 years, 9 months ago

When you put money in the meter, the reg flag goes up that reads "NO BUMS." After the two hours runs out, the green flag goes up that reads "BUMS OK." I like this idea better and better all the time. It's sort of like paying for a parking space, but just the opposite. Instead of paying to fill the space with something -- your car -- you are paying for the privilege of keeping the sidewalk empty of something: bums.

snitty 6 years, 9 months ago

Why not make the parking meters accept donations?

beatrice 6 years, 9 months ago

Parking meters are mandatory donations, with the funds going to the city.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

I think your analysis is flawed.

Many people want to actually help folks, not enable them. Giving to a meter which goes to a charity that does that is an attractive option for them.

beatrice 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm picturing the Halloween costume already. Donations of candy only.

beatrice 6 years, 9 months ago

Is it me, or does the meter look like a guy sitting in a cardboard box?

Kyle Chandler 6 years, 9 months ago

Its nice to see the Conservatives of Douglas County using their pea brains....aren't they cute!? NEXT

Matt Needham 6 years, 9 months ago

People give to panhandlers because there is a human being in front of them. Those people are going to continue to give change to the panhandlers. No one is going to use the meters. At least not enough to make it worth putting them in. People hate putting money into parking meters.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

I'm surprised at how many people don't seem to understand the idea here.

If people stop giving money to panhandlers, that will discourage the practice.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

Well, do you really think people like to be homeless and beg on the street?

Then, there's the impact on businesses, and folks who otherwise might spend more time/money downtown.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago


I wasn't trying to get any sympathy, but if you think it's not an issue for downtown businesses and regular non-homeless folks, you're mistaken.

But, I guess for you it's a non-issue - let them beg, and let the rest of us change our habits, decrease business revenues, etc.

Ok - I'm glad you're not on the City Commission.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago

I didn't, and wouldn't say that.

The financial crisis was caused by greed, stupidity, and the lack of adequate governmental regulation - the big winners were large banks/mortgage brokers/etc. and the big losers were the rest of us.

Amy Heeter 6 years, 9 months ago

I still say this meter program won't stop beggers.

jmadison 6 years, 9 months ago

The ACLU has indicated that panhandling is a freedom of speech issue that should not be restricted by law.

jafs 6 years, 9 months ago


But what about loitering and vagrancy? I'd think those violations could be enforced.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 9 months ago

Installing these donation meters is a creative idea that in theory will reduce a downtown social hassle that everyone acknowledges is real. It's certainly worth a try.

Downtown shoppers will soon have a ready-made generic answer when politely refusing a panhandler's solicitation: "I give my loose change to the donation meters."

Panhandlers in general, and aggressive panhandlers in particular, may object to these donation meters going up, as their attempts at receiving a portion of shopper donations will entail interacting with an organized relief opposed to continuing as an independent party making panhandling a career.

50YearResident 6 years, 9 months ago

My ESP says each meter placed on Mass. St. will have at least 4 bums sitting close by, 2 on each side, and the potential depositers will be approched just before they drop the coins by 1 or 2 of these bums with this speach: Sir/Mam, I can take that money you are depositing and take it to the office because I am going there anyway because I work there. It will help the collectors out with less trips to empty the meter. Thank You, oh! by the way, can you spare any more, maybe a dollar or two, they sure need the donations? Bla, Bla, Bla.......

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 9 months ago

The meters are nothing more than a band aid and do not address the root problem.

You get rid of roaches by cutting off their water and food supply.

You don't get rid of a stray dog by feeding it.

The bums will quickly learn that if they stand very close to the meters, people will not use them. This would validate that the whole thing, from the beginning is a waste of city resources.

The meters are just another example of something that "Feels good", and never solves the problem.

notanota 6 years, 9 months ago

Is that what happened in all the other cities that implemented the idea?

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