Feeding the Meter to Help the Homeless

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Little Koshka, Flickr
    Meters like this one in Laguna Beach will soon dot the streets of Santa Cruz to help curb panhandling.

    New meters are going in on the streets of Santa Cruz but the machines won't be collecting coins for parking. Instead, feeding these meters will mean help for the homeless.

    The coastal city is bringing meters from the 1950s out of retirement as part of an outreacch service called Imagine Positive Change. The goal is to raise money for bus fares, state identifications and other services for transients while discouraging panhandling.

    The meters are expected to collect about $1,700 a year. A county social worker will distribute vouchers to transients for services like rehabilitation and housing.

    The meters won't eliminate the panhandling, though. People will still be allowed to ask for money but they'll have to stay at least 14 feet away from the meters. That's because the meters will be considered public art, which Santa Cruz protects under a 14-foot rule.

    Up to eight red meters will go up within the next few months on highly visible corners along Pacific Avenue. The cost of the installation will be covered by private donations.

    Santa Cruz joins other U.S. cities, including Laguna Beach, Cleveland, Atlanta and Denver, which have also put up meters to collect donations for panhandlers in recent years.

    Photo from Little Koshka's Flickr photostream.