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.