Every major city that has any problem with homelessness (which, I think, is all of them) realizes that steps must be taken to curb the burden of panhandlers. However, as reported through the Post-Dispatch this morning, St. Louis government officials are taking an unusual approach to correcting the problem in the city’s Central West End.
The St. Louis Treasurer and "parking czar" has donated a decommissioned and refurbished parking meter to the area in an effort to reduce begging. The idea is that rather than give change to the homeless, visitors to one of the fine establishments surrounding the intersection of Maryland and Euclid will drop their change into a meter (if for no other reason to remind themselves that they just waited 35 minutes to find a meter they were required to throw change into).
The funds are intended to help aid homeless service agencies, but more importantly, the presence of the meter will "discourage panhandling by providing some competition for change, while
at the same time giving folks on [sic] alternative route for their altruism."
Really? Competition is going to make beggars go away? I’m aware of the fact that the meter will be an alternative target for quarters, but I really hope no one at city hall thinks that its presence will reduce panhandling. As a matter of fact, if I were a beggar, I’d be even more obnoxious because I’d know if I didn’t annoy you enough, you’d give those coins to an inanimate object. Better yet, I’d do it while standing right next to the meter, so that any joy you get from giving is canceled out by the guilt of not giving to me.
I can see it now: an anti-panhandling meter surrounded by 15 panhandlers. Great idea.