City continues to formulate process for distributing money from homeless donation meters
Based on the hundreds of coins deposited so far, the community is responding to the City of Prescott’s new Change for the Better program.
Prescott Special Projects and Legislative Coordinator Tyler Goodman reported that he made the first collection on May 18 of the change that had been deposited in the parking-style meters designated as “homeless donation stations.”
The tally in that collection: About $175.
“Three of the four meters were completely full,” Goodman said of the meters, which are located at four high-profile spots in downtown Prescott.
Goodman and Community Outreach Manager John Heiney collected the change again on Friday, June 1. While the total was down from the first collection, Heiney noted that one of the meters had been jammed and was unable to accept donations – a problem that he said would be fixed.
Overall, Goodman and Heiney say the first month or so of the program that aims at discouraging panhandling appears to be working.
“I think it’s going well,” Heiney said. “There just needs to be more awareness. I think it’s a word-of-mouth process.”
Goodman expects the donation totals to go up as the tourist season gets busier during the summer months. As the money is accumulated, the city will begin distributing it to organizations that help the homeless.
“If we get a couple hundred dollars a week, we might distribute it every other month,” Goodman said.
Heiney said the process for distribution is still being formulated. “Nothing has moved forward yet, but there will be a qualification process for the agencies,” he said.
Although the pre-qualification process will not be overly involved, Heiney said the city wants to ensure that the groups getting the money are helping the homeless.
In addition to the meter proceeds, Goodman said early reports indicate that panhandling activity is down.
“Anecdotally, we’ve been hearing that yes, there are fewer panhandlers,” said Goodman.
The program launched about a month ago, after the Prescott City Council supported the multi-pronged effort to discourage panhandling.
Among the other steps:
• Signs at busy corners urging passersby not to give to panhandlers.
• Donation boxes placed in businesses and churches to help raise additional money.
• A program to put homeless people to work helping to maintain city rights-of-way and facilities.
• “Defensive architecture,” such as armrests on park benches to discourage people from lying down.
• Paid ambassadors to walk the downtown streets to provide information and security.
• A marketing program.
In addition to the meters, the city has also distributed about five of the donation boxes to area churches and businesses. Goodman encourages more businesses to pick up a donation box at Prescott City Hall.
The defensive architecture measures have also already been installed —mostly through armrests placed on city benches. Goodman said the armrests were installed on 33 benches.
He added that the measures do not extend to the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, because that area is under the county’s jurisdiction.
The details of the work program are still being formulated as well. Goodman said the program will be administered by the Coalition for Compassion and Justice, and the city will pay for work as it is done around the community — up to $10,000.
The city’s website states that the program will offer “work opportunities for those who choose to work rather than panhandle.”
Goodman said the web page would soon begin publishing how much is collected through the meters and donation boxes, as well as when the donations will be distributed.