The streets of New Haven will soon see the addition of 10 “donation meters”: parking-meter-like devices that will accept cash donations to help the homeless.
The Board of Alders moved forward on several projects Monday night, with unanimous approval for a proposal to install 10 donation meters downtown. Put forth by the City Services and Environmental Policy Committee, the meters are part of “Give Change to Make Change,” an ongoing initiative of the City and Town Green Special Services District that is meant to address homelessness, reduce panhandling and provide social services for people in crisis.
“It’s really about education and channeling good energy from our visitors and our residents of New Haven into action,” New Haven Transit Chief Doug Hausladen ’04 said. “We want to really attack homelessness as a team effort.”
The city parking meter vendor, IPS Group Inc., will provide meters free of charge to the city, which will then accept cash donations from the public, according to Ward 18 Alder Salvatore DeCola, who chairs the City Services and Environmental Policy Committee. The donations will support United Way’s 100-Day Challenge, a program that seeks to provide housing for homeless individuals and families with the greatest need.
Hausladen, an organizer of the parking meter program, said it will still take several months for the program to be fully implemented. The goal, he said, is to do a soft launch of the program, which will only include electronic donations, by Dec. 1. The electronic donation service will be run by Parkmobile LLC, a mobile application that allows drivers to pay for parking electronically. Hausladen estimated that the program will fully launch with the cash donations in January.
Hausladen explained that it will take time to get contracts signed by the three collaborating groups — IPS Group Inc, Parkmobile LLC and United Way of Greater New Haven. Once the contracts are signed, the meters must be shipped and then installed by the Department of Transportation, Traffic and Parking. Hausladen added that the city has already begun publicizing the donation meters through its website.
The donation meters are part of the city’s broader efforts to address panhandling in New Haven. In response to a 2014 study looking at New Haven residents’ perceptions of the city, Mayor Toni Harp launched a taskforce to tackle the residents’ biggest concerns — panhandling being one of them. Other approaches the task force came up with include creating drop-in social service centers as well as community courts.
“It’s providing a conversation and a true education for all visitors of downtown to appreciate the difference between what is homelessness and what is panhandling,” Hausladen said. “It’s about channeling some dollars into making actual collective impact.”
Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 said she supports the donation meter program because it gives residents an opportunity to donate spare change at no cost to the city.
According to their website, the United Way 100-Day Challenge has housed 180 chronically homeless people in New Haven and has matched an additional 114 to potential housing units.