Installing parking meter-like donation stations in other cities across the U.S. has helped some metropolitan areas raise much-needed funds to fight homelessness, and Leadership Macons 2012 class hopes a similar program could have success here as well.
There were a number of community issues we could have addressed, said Chris Tsavatewa, a Leadership Macon 2012 class member. We recognized that Macon has a homeless problem, and homeless organizations that have been here for decades ... are competing for resources, funding.
Tsavatewa proposed the donation station idea Thursday at the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority meeting.
The authority was warm to the idea and voted to act as the fiscal agent for the program.
Tsavatewa said Leadership Macon also received similar support from Macon City Council members whom they have talk to about the idea.
Weve been meeting with members of council individually, said Mechel McKinley, Macons Main Street manager and a Leadership Macon class member. Its a big project, much larger than just putting in meters. Across the board, weve gotten good feedback and (Macon City Council members) have asked good questions.
Macon City Councilman Charles Jones said he heard about the idea from a report in The Telegraph.
I hope we take a good look at it, because anything we can do to help people, we need to do it, he said.
That look should include finding out exactly how the money will be distributed -- whether all or most of it will go directly to the homeless, Jones said.
Hes also concerned about the ability of a nonprofit group to install permanent devices on city streets, and about monitoring. Jones wonders if oversight responsibility would wind up falling on the city.
If you put the meters downtown and someone breaks in and steals, who is responsible? he said.
Councilman Lonnie Miley said District Attorney Greg Winters called him Thursday to discuss the idea. Winters told him such meters have been tried elsewhere, and some people would like to try them in Macon to aid the homeless and groups that support them, Miley said.
From what I understand its not actually going to be a cost to the city, he said. It wont hurt to give it a try. ... I certainly will support the concept of the homeless meters.
McKinley said one of the most important aspects of the program would be supporting the groups that support the homeless population.
One of the things that is really important to us is that we are supporting programs that are a part of the Coalition to End Homelessness, she said. They will be able to receive grants from these funds to support their services.
Tsavatewa said any qualifying agency that supports downtowns homeless population is eligible for grants.
One criterion will be the qualifying agency must be a member of coalition, he said.
Deterring panhandling is not a priority of this program, Tsavatewa said.
The priority of this program is to raise awareness about the face of homelessness in Macon and Bibb County. The second priority is to provide an alternative giving opportunity to the patrons of downtown to give to these local organizations because their hearts are already pulled to give to the homeless, and they dont see the organizations possibly out and engaging in this work maybe as prominently as they do some other civic organizations. By putting this out there, were reminding our community.
Successful in other cities
Some cities with donation stations in their downtown areas are Atlanta; Baltimore; Cleveland; San Francisco; Denver; Nashville, Tenn.; Salt Lake City; Orlando, Fla.; Miami; and Las Vegas.
We started looking at different programs around the country that use these donation stations as a means for creating a reliable income source for programs that support the homeless community, McKinley said.
Leadership Macon contacted many of the cities which raved about their programs and pledged support to Macon if such a program is launched here.
Here in Nashville we have 26 donation meters located in prominent areas mostly throughout downtown, Judith R. Tackett, communication coordinator with Nashvilles Metropolitan Homelessness Commission wrote in a letter of support to Tsavatewa. The programs financial success is linked to annual sponsorships. While we were successful in raising more than $25,000, we are now looking at rebranding the program. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District shared similar successes with Tsavatewa.
In partnership with the City of Atlanta, ADID has installed over 15 Giving Meters throughout Downtown Atlanta, the improvement districts Carly Nassar wrote in a letter to Tsavatewa. The meters have been viewed as a success in educating pedestrians about the risks associated with on street giving and the benefits related to donating money directly to agencies that provide comprehensive services to those in need.
Tsavatewa said the donation stations would only be an element to address Macons homeless problem.
Theyre a tool, and we think its been successful and innovative in other communities, he said. The ones where its not been successful, were learning from those.
To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382. To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.