To combat both homelessness and panhandling, the Elm City has installed special parking meters for people to donate to homelessness resources in the city.
As part of the Give Change to Make Change initiative, City Hall has put up signs encouraging residents and visitors to put their extra change in specially labeled parking meters instead of giving it directly to panhandlers. The city announced the launch of the program — operated in conjunction with the Town Green Special Services District, Liberty Community Services and Market New Haven — with a press release on Dec. 12. The initiative’s webpage states that all of the money from the meters will go to Liberty, which provides shelter, food and job services to the Elm City’s homeless population.
Four parking meters are already in place with six more on their way. The existing ones are located at the College Street Garage as well as the corners of Chapel and College streets, York and Chapel streets and Broadway and Elm streets.
“[The] concept behind this whole campaign is to distinguish that not everyone who panhandles is homeless and not everyone who is homeless is panhandling,” said John Bradley ’81, executive director of Liberty.
Bradley explained that many of the people who are homeless that he knows are looking for work or working rather than panhandling and that some are in permanent housing and qualify for disability payments. He said he has not received feedback about the system from any clients, but that New Haven residents have expressed curiosity about the meters.
The New Haven Free Public Library Foundation will collect the money from the meters and use it to subsidize Liberty’s outreach work at the library, Bradley said. The program includes a worker at the library five days a week who assists people in “desperate situations” with housing problems, he said. He added that philanthropic donations previously funded the program, but it lacked a steady source of funding.
Martha Brogan, city librarian and director of the New Haven Free Public Library, said she is not aware of any monetary transfers yet, but that the program is still in its early stages.
According to Liberty’s 2016 survey there are about 625 people who are homeless in New Haven. The nonprofit conducts a count every year on a single night in January, Brogan said.
City Hall Director of Communications Laurence Grotheer said Mayor Toni Harp was inspired to go forward with the program after hearing about the success of similar programs at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The parking meters were donated to the city by its usual supplier, he said. The six that have yet to be installed will most likely go into service in the spring, he said. The main branch of the NHFPL, located downtown, is now taking suggestions for where the meters should go, he added.