New Brunswick

Fredericton to keep 'kindness meters' in core another 2 years

Green parking meters known as "kindness meters" are expected to stay in downtown Fredericton another two years to discourage panhandling in the area.

Repurposed parking meters let people help panhandlers without giving them change directly

In 2015, six kindness meters were installed in downtown Fredericton in hopes of reducing panhandlers in the area. (CBC)

Ever wonder what those green parking meters are for in downtown Fredericton?

In 2015, six "kindness meters" were installed as a pilot project in the core with the goal of reducing panhandling. Now, the city has decided to keep the repurposed parking meters for another two years.  

"We felt they worked out extremely well and we went back to council to ask for another extension," said Bruce McCormack, general manager of Downtown Fredericton Inc.

For the past two years, the meters have raised up to $10,000. Instead of giving change directly to panhandlers, people can put it into the meters.

The money raised is split between the Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc. and the Fredericton Community Kitchens.

Warren Maddox, the executive director of the Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said the money goes into general operations to keep doors at the shelter open 23 hours a day.

That's money that can help us feed the many people who come in through our doors.- Therese Murray, Fredericton Community Kitchen

"Any kind of revenue stream that we can get is critical for us," said Maddox. "We really struggle on a year-to-year basis to keep our doors open."

Even though Maddox is grateful for the meters, he said they're not as popular among residents two years into the project.

"It started off gangbusters and sort of plateaued and it's gone down," he said. "The novelty has worn off a little bit."

Maddox said the meters have also been vandalized and aren't particularly popular with current panhandlers downtown.

​The Fredericton Community Kitchen uses its half of the money to cover meal costs within the kitchen and other programs throughout the community. 

"That's money that can help us feed the many people who come in through our doors," said Therese Murray, the executive director of the organization.

"How could we not be grateful for that?"

Room for improvement

Last week, CBC News reported that tickets issued to panhandlers on Fredericton streets decreased drastically in the last 21 months.  

Fredericton police issued 32 tickets for panhandling during that time, compared with 105 tickets the previous 22 months.

Warren Maddox, the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, says revenue from the kindness meters has been important to his group, although meters aren't popular with panhandlers. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
A Right to information request filed by CBC News with the Fredericton Police Force found 32 tickets were issued to panhandlers between Oct. 1, 2015, and June 16, 2017.

Of those, seven were warnings and 25 were tickets that came with a fine of $140.

But even though the city has seen a decrease in panhandling tickets, Maddox said panhandling is still an issue.

"People still have to make money ... they really need the money," he said. 

With files from Shane Fowler