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Asking for change: Parking meters may benefit homeless

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Asking for change: Parking meters may benefit homeless

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As the city grapples with a rising homeless population, the solution may lie forgotten in a storage unit somewhere. Unused parking meters, installed and decried by members of the downtown Sarasota community, may be an enterprising way of collecting funds to benefit the homeless.

Parking meters first showed their cold, electronic faces in the city of Sarasota in May 2011 where they were barely utilized for one month. The city spent $600,000 on the meters as parking of a larger parking overhaul costing about $1 million. After numerous protests by business-owners, the city commission opted to bag the contested parking meters, saying goodbye to the investment. Only $60,000 was collected from the plan, most of which was parking tickets, not fares.

While most of the controversial meters were electronic, accepting cash and credit card, a number of traditional coin-slot meters are still lying unused in storage. The city has considered donating these 30 or so meters to organizations which could collect change donations for the homeless.

Not only will this raise money for the homeless, but hopefully prevent panhandling. The city voted to outlaw soliciting on streets, sidewalks or medians back in Apr. 2013 due to a significant rise in panhandlers.

Recent reports from expert Robert Marbut who was hired by the city to combat the growing homelessness problem entreated passerby to engage rather than enable the homeless. He suggested providing services and outreach to homeless, not change.

The city encouraged people to hold on to the change they might give homeless people or panhandlers and give it, instead, to a reputable non-profit organization. Soon, charitable citizens may be able to just drop their spare change in a parking meter.

Information for this article was taken from heraldtribune.com and sarasotagov.org.

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