Paul Braun huddles against the cold, watching as a crowd forms around a brightly decorated parking meter newly installed on Main Street in downtown Penticton.
Situated just outside the breezeway off the 200-block, this is Penticton’s first kindness meter, intended to collect donations for the homeless, like Braun. The breezeway is also his favourite spot for panhandling, and he’s not so sure the meter is a good idea.
“The people that sit outside and collect the money, they want to eat tonight, not next month,” said Braun, adding that he isn’t sure where the money is going and is concerned that it might end up in the hands of an organization that keeps a chunk of the money to cover their administrative costs.
“That pole isn’t going to give me a place to sleep. Sometimes you need band-aids or a shave once in a while,” said Braun, displaying a pink strip covering a cut on his hand. “It costs you money to go down to the pool to take a shower.
“It’s not cheap living outside.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the meter isn’t intended to stop panhandling, even though that was a major focus of the report introducing the idea to council at their March 22 meeting.
“I don’t think the kindness meter is going to stop people from contributing. It certainly isn’t going to stop panhandling. There are some people that want to contribute, and want to ensure their giving go to actual food and not maybe feeding some addiction,” said Jakubeit. “This is not by any means a method of trying to limit or stop panhandling. It’s one of the strategies in 100 Homes Penticton to help with homelessness. We were willing to give it a try and see how the community is receptive to it and how it works out.”
Bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert said the meter will be emptied as often as needed, and all the money will be passed to 100 Homes Penticton, who the city is partnering with for the initiative. In turn, they will redistribute the funds to the Soupateria, Salvation Army Compass House and other service groups working on homelessness.
Local artist Diane Way volunteered to decorate the meter so it couldn’t be mistaken for a regular parking meter.
“The quail really struck me as something different. They’re quirky, and fun, they’d rather run than fly,” said Diane Way.
“I just wanted to make it a happy scene.”
The breezeway location was chosen because it is a visible spot, and one of the places that generates the most complaints about panhandling.
Braun has received multiple tickets for panhandling. It’s a legal activity but the city has the authority to regulate where it occurs: breezeways, in front of ATMs and a few other locations are prohibited under the Good Neighbour Bylaw. But Braun said the meter isn’t going to change his behaviour any more than the tickets.
“I am just going to sit here. I’m not going anywhere.”