New Brunswick

Saint John and Moncton hopeful kindness meters will help those in need

Moncton and Saint John are facing mixed reviews for placing so-called kindness meters in their cities.

Meters described as an alternative way to give

A Meter for Change was installed in Saint John to encourage people to donate to help agencies that assist those that are homeless. (Twitter/Uptown Saint John)

Moncton and Saint John are facing mixed reviews for placing so-called kindness meters in their cities. 

People can place their change in the meters, which resemble parking meters, and the donations are given to local charities to help those in need. 

Nancy Tissington, executive director of Uptown Saint John, says the Meters for Change were installed after discussions  with the police force.

"They had been hearing a number of concerns around the amount of panhandlers on the street so we sat down and we discussed what some of the best practices could be in addressing some of the concerns around people on the street asking for help and asking for money."

Tissington said panhandling is noticed more during peak times such as tourism season and the holiday season. 

"That's probably the number one concern we hear most from our members." 

Tissington said business owners hear complaints from patrons who feel uncomfortable walking from store to store and being asked several times for help. 

Opportunity to give

Now with the installation of Meters for Change, Tissington said people on the streets will benefit from funds being donated to various organizations and shelters. 

"It's another opportunity or an alternative if you will for folks to give in a real way." 

Kindness meters in Moncton were vandalized when first installed. (Facebook/Feed Moncton)
Meanwhile in Moncton, Roxanne Rupps of the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee said the response to the kindness meters has been mixed. 

"There's a mixed response among the agencies as well as people that panhandle." 

Rupps says the meters only collected about $800 in the first year, and the total for for 2017 is not yet available. 

But Rupps said three agencies that did receive the money say it will help with deposits to get a place in a rooming house or help pay for birth certificates to be able to apply for assistance.

"When Downtown Moncton put in our kindness meters, they had the slogan that is was OK to say no to panhandlers, and I'm OK with that, but I'm also of the opinion that it's OK to say yes to pandhandlers." 

Rupps said she appreciates the concerns coming from the downtown businesses but she thinks people are there panhandling because people do give to them. 

She added the panhandlers have made their feelings towards the kindness meters very clear by sitting beside them and using their hats to cover it.

"Some people see it as competition. I don't think everyone is opposed because they do use the agencies that do benefit from the kindness meters." 

Alternative way to donate

Tissington said they will be checking the meters in Saint John at the end of December to see how people responded.

"I don't see it as competition in anyway. It's really about an alternative."

As an added option, Tissington said people can donate to the meters for change through HotSpot Parking. 

"We're still hopeful that we're going to be kind to one another," said Tissington, referring to offers of food and hot drinks to those on the street who need it. 

Rupps said she doesn't believe enough money is going into the meters to affect any real change or take anyone off the street. 

Tissington agreed adding while the meters aren't going to stop panhandling, they are helping to raise the awareness of the issues of homelessness to the public. 

"Keeping the conversation alive and letting people know they can still visit our city streets and give in another way." 

Tissington said all the donations will add up. 

In Fredericton, up to $10,000 has been donated through kindness meters, prompting the city to keep them in place for another two years. 

With files from Shift