Virginia Beach hopes donation meters discourage panhandlers


by David Ham | Follow me on Twitter: @davidham

Posted on August 10, 2010 at 11:42 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 10 at 11:42 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- 8 donation meters, similar to parking meters, will be installed along Virginia Beach's Oceanfront in the next three weeks. The city says the meters are designed to help discourage panhandlers.

"We want to help the donors and their experience, to let them know where their money is going and we want to help the people who are panhandling for those needs that would help them," said Andrew Friedman, director of Virgina Beach's Department of Housing and Neighborhood Preservation.

The donation meters will be installed along the boardwalk for a 12-month pilot program. Along with money collected by the meters, the city also is encouraging donors to sponsor a meter for $1000 a year.

It's still unclear exactly how the money will benefit the homeless. The city says a committee will be formed to review proposals on how the money will be donated. Some possibilities include transportation vouchers, peer mentoring, and other outreach efforts.

13News spoke to some homeless people in Virginia Beach about the idea.

"It will not discourage panhandling in no way, shape, or form," said Michelle Frey.

Others were skeptical about how the money would be spent to help the homeless.

"For me, I have to see it to believe it," said David Linkins.

Mike Eason, of the Resort Management office said all 8 meters cost about $1100 dollars. It will take city workers about 20 minutes a week to collect the money.

Friedman said after a year the city will present statistics on if panhandling behavior patterns on the Oceanfront have changed to decide to either continue, expand or discontinue the donation meter program.

The proposal is similar to programs in Laguna Beach, California and Denver, Colorado.