Posted by Deirdre Oakley, DENVER, CO -- In an effort to curb panhandling, particularly in areas frequented by tourists, many cities -- including Denver -- have installed 'donation meters'. Typically these meters are brightly colored with some information about why donating to the meter is a much better way to help homeless people than simply giving them money or even food. City officials say that the donations go to local organizations that provide shelter, meals, counseling, and job training. But homeless advocates have criticized donation meter programs as just another way to bar panhandling and question where the money from the meters actually goes. Another issue is whether or not people passing by feel motivated enough to put money in these meters. For example, Cleveland installed 12 donation meters in 2009. During the first year the meters made about $100 a week but since then this total has dropped to $20. Denver has installed 80 donation meters since 2007 and raises about $100,000 a year. However $70,000 of this comes from local businesses and residents who sponsor a meter for an annual price tag of $1,000. While city officials claim that the number of panhandlers in downtown Denver has been reduced by 80 percent, it's unclear whether this is because of the meters or because of the police. I suspect the latter has more to due with it.
Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor in Sociology as Georgia State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.