Using old parking meters to collect donations for local social service agencies is a positive approach to the continuing problem of panhandlers in downtown Lawrence.
At their meeting tonight, Lawrence city commissioners will discuss a staff report looking at the possibility of placing special meters around downtown as a way to direct charitable donations to local agencies that can help panhandlers get off the street. The report includes information from six other communities that are trying a similar approach.
The plan would be to turn used parking meters already owned by the city into “donation meters.” The meters could be placed at various locations around downtown so that people who want to help the homeless can do so by donating their spare change rather than giving it to the panhandlers. Presumably, a decline in the money they are given also will discourage panhandlers in downtown.
The staff report suggested a contest to design a logo that would clearly differentiate donation meters from regular parking meters. Perhaps the young artists at Van Go could help provide some colorful paint jobs to go along with that logo. Local business owners might help defray the city’s cost by commissioning Van Go artists to decorate the meters, much as they have many colorful benches around Lawrence.
Putting money in donation meters would be a good option for people who want to help but don’t want to encourage downtown panhandling. The donors also will know the money they put in the meters will be put to good use.
Donation meters are a positive approach to a difficult problem. Let’s give it a try.