Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank and homeless advocate Pamela J. Atkinson feed coins into the donation meter. - Photo by Whittney Evans
(KCPW News) Salt Lake City launched a new program this morning that takes a softer approach to curbing panhandling. The Homeless Outreach Service Team, or HOST program includes donation meters installed downtown to give pedestrians an easy way to contribute to homeless service providers, rather than panhandlers. Police Chief Chris Burbank says the program also gives law enforcement resources to address public intoxication, disorderly conduct and other issues by connecting offenders with providers.
“It becomes very easy to make an ordinance and say it’s the police department’s responsibility.” He says. “It’s against the law and we turn our back and forget about it. But to look internally and to say okay, what are we doing to contribute to this problem and then more importantly how can we solve.”
The first meter was installed on the corner of Main Street and South Temple next to Zion’s Bank. Matt Minkevitch with the Road Home says it’s at first an educational campaign for people who are in need, but it also provides an outlet for the community’s charitable impulses.
“So people who want to help will be able to turn to these meters,” he says, “make a contribution and that contribution will be compounded by others who are making a contribution and that’s how raindrops make floods.”
The city wants to partner with other area businesses to host the red meters. All collections go to the Pamela J. Atkinson Foundation to be distributed to homeless services.