Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

Homelessness in Madison

October 12, 2009

Here are some numbers on homelessness from the Madison Planning and Community Economic Development Department:

Served in Shelter in 2008: 3,894 (2,035 individuals, 636 families, including 1,310 children)

Turned away from Shelter in 2008: 3,636

These numbers suggest that there are half as many spots for the homeless in Madison as there should be. Perhaps, in addition to removing bench dividers, we should research using softer pavement, since the street seems to be the city’s recommended bed for homeless residents.

Panhandlers on State St

July 3, 2009

The guys in front of BW’s. The guys in front of Peace Park. Bryon Eagon is talking about them in his second official blog post.

Who doesn’t feel at least a little guilty when you pass people who you know are in need of help but maybe don’t trust that your spare change will be used to actually help? Who hasn’t feared or assumed it may be used to exacerbate or propel some of the problems or issues of why that person is asking for money in the first place?

A few days before one of the meetings, a friend and I were talking and he threw out the idea of using alternative methods to dissuade panhandling but still provide a way to raise money, specifically mentioning a system used in Denver where old parking meters are turned into fund-raising collectors in an effort to raise money for services by dissuading direct panhandling through more trusted giving.

Well, the committee met last week and I was excited to hear that DMI and the Police Department have been looking into the possibility, with an added focus on using more mailbox-like structures instead of the parking meters, primarily because this would allow for cash/check donations and not limit it to coins.

It’s hard to say how effective this plan will be. The motives for charitable giving are very different. Pressure and seeking approval will hardly play a big role in dropping change anonymously into a box. However, there is an advantage. First off, it gives people the opportunity to give without being hassled, which discourages a lot of people from giving to charity. Second, rather than being pressured into giving large lump sums, people can give small amounts whenever they feel like it. A few cents here, a few dollars there. And if the system is marketed as fighting against community poverty, I think people could become enthusiastic about contributing. But there needs to be a goal articulated by the government, including the mayor. There needs to be a vision associated with the boxes – they can’t just be bigger versions of those vague contribution jars at coffee shops for abused animals. I don’t see wild amounts of money being raised but hey, if the revenue exceeds the cost of putting up these things, why not? Voluntary taxation. We should give it a try more often.