It’s not often that the city’s bylaw department gets a chance to partner on an initiative where they give away money.
As they help convert an old parking meter into Penticton’s first kindness meter, they get to do exactly that, joining up with the 100 Homes and the Downtown Penticton Association to make the new helping initiative a reality.
Kindness meters first began appearing about a decade ago, and have been operating in Kamloops, Vernon and Victoria for a while. By re-purposing an old coin-fed parking meter, they allow people to pump their spare change into the meter to help the needy.
The money is then distributed to service organizations. In Penticton, that is going to be 100 Homes, who will then spread the funds out among the Soupateria, Salvation Army’s Compass House and other service groups.
The goal, says bylaw supervisor Tina Seibert, is to reduce panhandling, by giving people an easy way to donate to homeless resources and programs, rather than panhandlers themselves.
“Complex social issues like panhandling require co-ordinated community response and dealing with root causes,” said Seibert, adding that they hear concern from both residents and businesses about panhandlers interfering with business or making areas where panhandlers gather uninviting to businesses, tourists and residents.
“The DPA fully supports this initiative with an understanding that it will not eliminate panhandling and homelessness problems downtown. It is simply part of a solution,” said Lynn Allin, the association’s executive director.
Siebert’s proposed location is in the 200 block of Main Street near the breezeway. She said both bylaw and the RCMP have noted the area as a hotspot for panhandlers.
“We are hoping that by putting the kindness meter here, that it will decrease some of the panhandling complaints and help those that need it the most get the services in the community,” said Siebert. “The point is that it is not just for one person, not just for one panhandler. It is for the whole community, it is for the people that need it most.”
Siebert said the cost of the project is minimal: about $100 to $150 to install the parking meter and then small costs for decaling and a sign on the pole. Local artist Diane Way volunteered to decorate the parking meter, reducing the cost further, and ensuring that it can’t be mistaken for a regular parking meter.
“Depending on how full it gets, we are planning to collect it weekly. If we are required to collect it more frequently, it’s not far and it is an easy task for our department to do,” said Seibert.
The pilot project with the one meter runs from April of this year to April 2018. Coun. Tarik Sayeed asked for a progress report in the summer, so council could consider if they wanted to place more kindness meters in other locations.