Downtown homeless meters coming soon

The 2012 class of Leadership Macon, a group that recognizes up-and-coming leaders in the Middle Georgia area, have proposed to put homeless meters in downtown Macon to directly aid in alleviating homelessness.
The idea of donation meters has been sweeping the country. Some of the most successful cities that have installed similar meters include Philadelphia and Denver.
The meters will look like any parking meters except for all of the donations will go directly to local organizations to help the homeless.
The proposal for the donation meters was an idea suggested by Chris Tsavatewa during Leadership Macon.
Tameka Milligan, a member of the 2012 class of Leadership Macon, said, “We looked at how Macon was dealing with the homelessness issue. How is our community, not the state or the federal government, but how are we handling our homeless issue.”
Since the original proposal, the group has been meeting with councilmen individually and they have gotten a positive response.
Nine meters will be installed in the downtown area. Each meter resembles a parking meter, but instead of being located at a parking spot it is placed in a strategic high foot-traffic area. Some of the locations include Cherry Street as well as in front of City Hall.
Milligan said, “We are currently looking for sponsors. We are looking for people to put their plaque on there to say that they are giving and that they encourage others to give as well.”
A sponsorship for one year is $2,500, but only $6,000 for three years. One issue that Milligan stressed was that 100 percent of the money collected is going directly to service and specifically the Homeless Coalition.
She said, “Some folks are sometimes hesitant if they don’t know where the money is going, but here it is going 100 percent of the time to the Homeless Coalition and all the work they do.”
One question that has risen from this proposal is whether or not the meters will cut down on panhandling.
In 2007, the city of Macon made it illegal to panhandle after dark. The ordinance was passed after Macon residents complained of belligerent homeless people blocking paths and harassing people for money.
Caitlin Donnelly, a senior at Mercer, said, “I don’t like odd people approaching me. They are always aggressive and I don’t know their true intentions.”
When Donnelly heard about the meters that were being installed she said, “when you are in downtown you are surrounded by poverty. Walking past the meter where you can donate money makes it feel like you’re able to help in a more immediate and safe way.”
The first installation of the meters will begin on Oct. 30. However, a groundbreaking ceremony has been planned for Nov. 15.
Milligan said, “We want this to be a good event. We want to bring awareness because of course we want this to last past what we are doing. We have to make sure we are taking care of our community.”