Halifax drivers feeding the parking meter will soon be able to feed money to charity as well, following a municipal council decision Tuesday to approve kindness meters.
Kindness meters are traditionally repurposed parking meters that take donations for local charities, redirecting money that would typically be given to panhandlers.
Halifax is moving ahead with a slightly different plan, which involves the pay stations that will be installed next year as part of the city's new on-street parking system. They will be programmed to accept charitable donations and not just credit card payments for parking, according to Coun. Waye Mason.
Kindness-meter funds will go to United Way Halifax. The idea is the revenue will be used to support housing and food initiatives for the homeless.
Won't solve poverty
Mason acknowledged the issues around poverty and homelessness are complex, and said the kindness-meter project is a just way for people to contribute and support charities that work to solve such issues.
"We don't want people to think that we think making a $2 donation to a charity on Spring Garden Road is going to solve poverty, or get homeless people off the streets, or stop panhandling," said Mason, who is councillor for the district of Halifax South Downtown.
He also doubts that many people who currently give change to a panhandler will stop simply because there's a kindness meter.
'A personal choice'
Kindness meters have been installed in several North American cities. Fredericton, for instance, got six stand-alone meters last year. Collected funds are split between the Fredericton Community Kitchen and Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc.
"They started off as really sort of gangbusters and then they plateaued," said Warren Maddox, executive director of the shelter. "It's a declining amount. The novelty of the meters has worn off."
Although donations to the shelter are appreciated, Maddox said this method cuts into the revenue streams of those who rely on panhandling as their income and doesn't cut the number of people asking for change on the street.
"It really becomes a personal choice," said Maddox. "Do you give it to an organization that does a lot of good for a lot of people, or do you give it to an individual who's just trying to sort of make it by?"
Halifax can expect to see the donation option at parking pay stations some time in 2018.