Would you support panhandling meters?

CP KFQ, Popular, Questions 16 Comments

In February of 2006, there were 1,650 homeless people in the Knoxville area; In February 1996 there were 1,187 – Cornerstone Foundation & Roger Nooe’s Biannual Study

Over the past couple of months we have touched on the homeless and panhandling issues that plague our Knoxville. The statistic above is proof that the problem is only worsening.

On a recent trip to Chattanooga, I stumbled upon “The Art of Change” meters that hope to curb panhandling by putting your spare change to good use. Cities such as Dallas and San Francisco have enacted similar programs. Our friends over at Chattarati asked their readers if the meters are actually working.

If the change collected went to a good cause, would you support panhandling meters in Knoxville? Why or why not?

Photo courtesy of John Hawbaker

Comments 16

  1. I would totally contribute to it if it were going to a good cause. However, I think I would miss the interactions with the homeless and underprivileged if they were asked to stop “panhandling” in exchange for a few meters to be installed.

    Do they have a double purpose for parking your car, or are they just random meters in the city with a sole purpose of collecting change for a cause?

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  3. Being that I hardly ever have change or cash of any kind on my person, I’m not sure I could contribute even if I wanted to.

    But if the contribution fit my cause, sure I’d contribute.

    I should also note that I’ve only been asked for money less than five times since moving to Knoxville more than a year and a half ago. And I’ve spent a lot of time downtown in that time.

  4. My mistake, I was under the impression that the money collected from the meters would still go to the homeless and that the homeless would be discouraged from asking for change.

    I would have to agree with @PatrickBeeson in that the cause the money was going to would have to align with my theologies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the homeless ministries/shelters/etc. in knoxville could stand to take an objective look at what they are truly doing and make some changes as to not completely enable people to be homeless, but to try to empower them and teach them some necessary skills to enrich their own lives. We do ourselves an injustice when we judge these people based on decisions they have made in the past and it would do us some good to talk to them, truly listen to them, and learn about how they ended up where they are. They are people, just like you and I. They have just made some poor choices in their past and it’s hard to get out of that lifestyle when everybody is looking at you like you’re a drug addict with a criminal history. Usually, that’s not the case.

    Wow…I guess I had a lot to say there. Getting off my soap box, now.

  5. I can’t see it hurting, so I guess I’d say “Sure, why not?”

    The one caveat being that I would hope the general public realizes that while these meters might be a good idea, it’s hardly a solution to the homeless problem.

    I spent a little under two years as an officer with the Knoxville Police Department and interacted with the homeless on a daily basis. I am of the opinion that the homeless problem runs far deeper and will require far more to resolve than a parking / change meter can provide.

    If it provides somewhere for people to drop change other than the homeless individual’s pocket I can hardly argue with it, but it’s little more than a band-aid on a much larger problem.

  6. I think it would go even further if we had true LAWS stating no panhandling in this area…if caught you could have jail time, etc. And then to push home the point even further, establish this system of collecting coin for a cause.

  7. …but then I would miss out on the wonderful, outlandish stories they concoct. Not to be a Negative Nancy [even though I physically cannot because I’m a dude], but I no longer give money to the homeless.

    I’d guess that in a year I average about 20-30 people hitting me up for change/cash. Mostly this happens at the Walgreens and Pilot on Broadway across from Fulton [For the record, my entire family and I have attended and graduated from Fulton], and in the Old City. I don’t really care. I’m a rather large fella, and am not in any kind of danger.

    I’ve given up. I’m not a huge supporter of the panhandling meters cause I’m sure I’ll still be bothered. Its tough enough trying to handle all my bills without having to worry with supporting the homeless, all of which can go to either KARM or VMC.

    Again, not trying to be an a$$.

  8. @jody or negative Nancy. Don’t think your an a$$, I agree that KARM, VMC, or any of the homeless INDUSTRY may not be the right place to put the money. Maybe it should go to Knox County Schools, or lobster dinners….

  9. While I don’t think it’s a horrible idea, I agree that I don’t see how it’s really going to discourage panhandling without anti-panhandling laws to back it up. And call me cynical, but I can’t help but wondering if the money would really go where it’s supposed to go.

    I also stopped giving money to people a long time ago – I think after the same guy approached me twice (weeks apart) with the same story about needing a bus ticket to get to his wife who was in labor somewhere.

    I do offer to buy food when people ask me for money, and I gladly would, but sadly those offers are always turned down.

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    I agree with most of you that this would not cure panhandling or homelessness. What it would do is bring awareness to the problem, especially if these were placed outside of the Downtown area. I know too many people that live in a West Knoxville bubble and have hardly an idea that this problem exists.

    As for the donations: I’d like to see the monthly proceeds from the meters go to a different organization (could be non-profit or profit) each month or quarter. In turn, you’d highlight more organizations that are trying to make a difference in Knoxville.

    Just my .02 cents.

  11. @Erik Luchauer: Erik, and anyone else who is interested, I would like to invite you to come see firsthand what we are doing to empower and teach people. Two of my former co-workers, former residents of our shelter, just moved to Florida, found employment and have rented an apartment for themselves using money that they earned and saved while staying at our facility. Contact me directly to set something up.

    For the record…I’ve heard of the meter idea before. It has apparently raised significant amounts of money, but alone will not solve the issue of panhandling. It may soothe the conscience, but there are a number of existing ways to do that.


  12. I like this idea, and think it could be a helpful way to allocate resources to address homelessness.

    I work downtown, and I don’t get approached all that often by panhandlers. I never, ever give them money. Like Patrick Beeson, I don’t carry cash around, for one thing. I also believe panhandling is an especially detrimental kind of enablement. Panhandling is an industry, and a lot of the people who work in it are not homeless.

    I think money collected through a system like this should be used to fund the case management services for people who are leaving chronic homelessness. Case management is the toughest funding challenge to ending homelessness.

  13. Suzy I have used the same tactic as you – offer to buy food instead of give money. I think that’s a test of their intentions. If they say they’re hungry, but turn down food, they don’t intend to use the money for food.

    Like you, I’ve mostly been turned down. Once I was blessed to be able to provide breakfast for a guy and was glad to do it.

    As for the meters, I’m not sure. I’d certainly have to be confident the money went to the homeless in some way.

  14. Thanks for a very healthy debate of just one challenge facing our downtown, pedestrian-friendly area. There are no silver bullets for panhandling, but geographic bans, really simplified enforcement, and complementary options like meters certainly would be an effective mix to do what’s best for those who are in real need and those who just want to help someone. In this instance, the greatest act of random kindness would be to hand out business cards of those volunteers and staff who are skilled in the ministry of helping others find thier way back home or on an even better path somewhere to start anew. Since carrying referral cards around all day is less than practical, why don’t we add signage for pedestrians and those who beg, alike, that informs, instructs, and directs everyone to the best places for help, shelter, kindness, and options for better heath and well-being. Communication, sensible bans in pedestrian places, simple enforcement, and help for those who really need it while showing those who beg for a living that they are not welcome downtown. Lastly, if you have any doubt about where we are or where we should take this challenge, call Ginny Weatherstone @ Volunteer Ministry Center. She’s the most qualified, local expert who deals with the wide and varied individual and system challenges everyday.

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