Giving spare change to panhandlers is akin to giving a man a fish; it may feed them for a day, but it does not teach that man how to fish. It does not address the underlying issue and does not empower the person to get their life in order. Making matters worse, many of downtown’s panhandlers are not actually homeless and are taking advantage of people’s generosity. Downtown Detroit needs a bonafide avenue for individuals to impact homelessness.
The Detroit Donates program transforms a familiar act, feeding the parking meter, into a charitable act. We will repurpose 16 old parking meters as ‘donation meters’ in both public and private spaces in the Downtown. People will wonder what a parking meter is doing in the middle of a sidewalk, approach it, see that it is a good cause, and put some change in it. This is not a novel idea; it has been effective in Washington DC, Denver, Indianapolis, and many other cities.
By providing an alternative to giving directly to a panhandler, we are funneling funds to impactful programs. We are changing peoples’ behaviors. The more people give to a donation meter, the less they give to a panhandler. The less they give to a panhandler, the less likely a panhandler is to locate in our Downtown.