It’s been four years since the City of Santa Maria launched its Feed the Meter homeless support program to discourage panhandling and raise money to help fight homelessness.
There are six locations in the city where coin meters are installed to encourage people to deposit spare change to raise money to help local homeless shelter services.
About $4,000 has been collected from the six meters, paid for by the City of Santa Maria, after four years of the program.
The coins are collected on a regular basis by Good Samaritan Shelter Services which keeps half of the funds with the other half split evenly by the Central Coast Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army for homeless support services including daily meals and clothing.
“The city receives none of the money, all of the money goes directly to the non-profits”, said Mark van de Kamp with the City of Santa Maria, “with a little help getting the word out there, this is still a very viable program that can make a real difference. If you feed the meter and not an addiction that will really make a big difference.”
The City of Santa Maria has an ordinance banning “aggressive” panhandling that prohibits tactics like following people and pressuring them into making a donation.
With conservative estimates of the homeless population in Santa Maria in the multiple hundreds of people, “passive” panhandling with people standing at the entrance to shopping center parking lots, gas stations, convenience stores or fast-food restaurants holding signs asking for donations of money, food or anything is common across the city.
The Feed the Meter program is seen as a more effective and proven way to give a “hand up” to the homeless in Santa Maria rather than a “hand out” by giving to panhandlers.
“Anyone can make a difference on any given day by going to our six meter locations and putting in some spare change”, van de Kamp said, “give it to a reputable organization that’s set up, that’s legitimate, that has a great track record like these three non-profits do.”
A map of the six Feed the Meter locations in Santa Maria can be found on the City of Santa Maria’s website at: https://www.cityofsantamaria.org/city-government/departments/city-manager/help-end-homelessness.