'Care Meters' not coming to Windsor, yet

City council on Monday put off making a decision on the installation of "care meters" in downtown Windsor.

Council wants more information on the plan to curb panhandling

Ottawa installed about 10 'Kindness Meters' in 2007. (Courtesy Give Smart To Ottawa)

City council on Monday put off making a decision on the installation of "care meters" in downtown Windsor.

Council wants more information on the devices from administration first.

The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association wants to install care meters in the city’s core. They look like parking meters and people would be expected to donate coins rather than give money directly to panhandlers.

Downtown business improvement association chair Larry Horwitz is proposing the care meters.

"We're starting with seven on the 200 and 300 blocks of Ouellette Avenue," Horwitz said. "We're asking them to be located in strategic locations. We're going to educate our merchants. We're going to try an educate the pubic and you're doing that for us."

But the latest plan to curb panhandling in Windsor likely won’t work says a business improvement association in central Ontario.

But Terry Guiel, the executive director of the Peterborough Downtown BIA, has tried the same thing and says it hasn’t made much of a difference.

Peterborough installed three of the meters in 2011 and has raised a total of $1,552 since.

“It did not get rid of the panhandling,” Guiel said. “Monetarily, it didn’t provide the kind of resources we hoped for. We still see panhandling on the streets.”

The money gathered from care meters is donated to programs, charities and agencies that help the homeless and marginalized.

“It was an interesting program but it needs to be part of a broader plan to tackle homelessness and those marginalized,” Guiel said.

About 10 meters were installed in 2007. A similar program in Montreal was raising about $700 a week at the time, according to a CBC News report. The Montreal program was being maintained and promoted using private sponsorship.

Guiel said more needs to be done to deal with root causes of panhandling.

“That has to do with drug addiction and mental health issues,” he said.

Guiel said the Care Meter program needed better promotion and that the public needed more notice.

“Part of our problem was we spray painted ours yellow, repurposed some old parking meters. They need to be distinguishable from parking meters,” he said. "When these ones are done, they will be pulled.”

Guiel said that while the Care Meters aren’t the answer, neither is giving to panhandlers.

“The panhandlers want the money in their hands to do what they want with the money. But giving to panhandlers directly could enable addictions,” he said.

A similar program exists in Ottawa, where the devices are called “Kindness Meters.”

The Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association brings its plan to Windsor Council on Monday.


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