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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Donation meters take in ,101 in first two months

The city of Gainesville unveiled six donation meters in August with the intention of collecting spare change for local homeless shelters.

The meters have collected ,101.70 in the two months they have existed.

Audrey Lewis, who works for the City Budget & Finance Department, helped collect money from the meters Friday and Monday.

They are a part of Gainesville's "Give a Better Way!" program, which helps raise money for the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry.

City spokesman Bob Woods said the Web site, www.gainesvillegives.org, has collected about ,40 worth of donations through PayPal.

Jim Hencin, city block grant manager, said the money collected goes toward things including bus passes, food and equipment.

Hencin said about ,259 was spent on "Give a Better Way!" signs. The six parking meters, which are mostly in downtown Gainesville, also had to be refurbished and painted.

Jim Wright, executive director of the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, said the organization has yet to obtain any funds.

The coalition is setting up banking arrangements with the city and is in the process of receiving money from the city, Wright said.

The coalition would give the donation money to local homeless programs, such as St. Francis House and The Salvation Army, to use for supplies, the Web site said.

Woods said the meters and Web site grant people alternatives to giving panhandlers money.

"When someone gives a donation to a panhandler, that individual may or may not be homeless," Woods said.

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Panhandlers may not use the money for a worthy purpose, he said.

Grants for homeless organizations have specific rules on how the money is used, Woods said. These program donations help service providers pay for other costs, he said.

"It's a good way to demonstrate that we, as citizens and residents of Gainesville, care about those who are less fortunate than ourselves," Woods said.

However, some feel that it would be better to directly donate to homeless service providers.

City Commissioner Rick Bryant was the only commissioner to vote against the program when it was voted on in March.

"It was a feel-good measure that wasn't going to accomplish anything," Bryant said.

He said the city would spend more money on the project than they would through raising donations.

Bryant said the city should give money directly to the organizations instead of wasting city staff time.

He used St. Francis House and The Salvation Army as examples.

"I like people to directly support them," he said. "They both do an outstanding job."

"Give a Better Way!" will continue its trial run throughout the year to see if it garners enough public support, Woods said.

However, Hencin said the city needs to work on the intensity of its advertising for the program.

"We need to promote this a little more than it has been," he said.

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