Atlanta’s New Plan For Homeless

Atlanta’s latest plan to thwart panhandling on downtown streets by installing five meters where people can donate money instead of giving it to beggars is backed by the slogan, “Give Change That Makes Sense.”

But if similar programs in other cities are any indication, the effort won’t raise much in the way of dollars and cents.

In Athens, the Downtown Development Authority erected four homeless meters five years ago. “We’ve never collected as much as $2,000 a year from the meters,” said the group’s executive director, Kathyrn Lookofsky.

In Baltimore, which has a homeless meter program often cited as the example of a program that works, the city collects a total of about $100 a month from 10 meters put up two years ago in the main tourism district along the waterfront.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it helps the homeless,” said Tom Yeager, executive vice president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, which put up the meters to replace change boxes.

“The boxes were becoming a problem because people were stealing them,” Yeager said.

In Atlanta, so far, the possibility that the meters might be stolen seems to be the only concern of city officials generally embracing Mayor Shirley Franklin’s latest attempt to make downtown streets more hospitable to visitors. The plan was announced last week, and the first five meters have been installed.

“What I want to know is, are they going to be easy to break into and take the money out of?” Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin asked. “Otherwise, I’ve got a wait-and-see-how-it-works attitude.”

The meters are yellow with black posts and look as resistant to break-ins as parking meters. People insert change in them the same way.

“The response to the program has just been tremendous,” said Debi Starnes, senior policy adviser to Franklin on homeless matters. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls from people wanting the meters.”

The idea has been floated for years, but Atlanta officials decided to push forward after seeing meters on a trip to Denver.

The money for the program — $40,000 — is coming from Central Atlanta Progress, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Atlanta Police Foundation and the Georgia World Congress Center. The money from the meters will go to organizations that aid the homeless, such as the Gateway Homeless Services Center.

The Buckhead Coalition business group was one of the early adopters, buying three for $315 a piece. The group’s president, former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, said Friday that he sees the meters as one more element in dealing with panhandlers that have become a problem in Buckhead.

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One Response to “Atlanta’s New Plan For Homeless”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    Even though some homeless people use the money they get on the street to buy beer and drugs there are others who use that money to meet their immediate needs like food and clothes. So I still think that just giving the money to a specific homeless person yourself gives you the conformation so you know where your money went. How long does it take that money to be emptied out of the meeter and actually get to the people who need it? Just my thought.

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