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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 5:52 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Santa Maria Installs Donation Meters in Effort to Reduce Aggressive Panhandling

A new effort to reduce aggressive panhandling in Santa Maria is now under way.

A meter outside a Santa Maria business accepts donations to support services for the homeless. (City of Santa Maria photo)

Designated parking meters — converted to accept donations for services for the homeless — are being installed at various locations where panhandling is most prevalent. The objective of this program is to redirect money that the general population is giving to panhandlers to those agencies that provide services directly to the homeless.

The pilot program is a partnership among the City of Santa Maria, the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria, the Central Coast Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army of Santa Maria. Money collected from the meters are used by those three nonprofit organizations to provide bedding, food-related services and treatment programs.

Meters are installed at various locations known for chronic panhandling, including the drive-through lane of the McDonald’s restaurant at Broadway and Fesler, at the J.C. Penney’s shopping center, near the FoodsCo, as well as other locations.

Making a donation by way of one of the donation meters provides an opportunity to help those less fortunate. It is fast, convenient and private, and the program tells residents and visitors that the community is actively looking for solutions to help the homeless.

With the public’s support, over time the program is anticipated to generate modest revenue for programs that emphasize help for those who are truly homeless, rather than handouts. Many panhandlers are not homeless.

The meters are the city’s latest effort to curb panhandling. In mid-2014, the City Council adopted an ordinance to regulate aggressive solicitation. Santa Maria followed the cities of Lompoc, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara in adopting rules against aggressive panhandling. Similarly, a number of communities on the Central Coast, state and the nation also use modified parking meters as “donation stations” for residents that feel compelled to give money to help others in need.

Good Samaritan Shelter serves as the program’s fiscal agent. This includes the collection of funds from the meters, and the distribution of proceeds to the partner agency groups. The city receives no money from this program as all the proceeds go directly toward nonprofits that help support homeless services.

The city website contains a webpage with information and a video about the homeless donation meter program. Anyone interested in making donations also may leave their contact information on a voicemail at the city at 805.925.0951 x800.

Questions may be directed to the City Manager’s Office at 805.925.0951 x372.

— Mark van de Kamp is a spokesman for the City of Santa Maria.


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