Iowa City donation stations installed to help curb panhandling - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City donation stations installed to help curb panhandling

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- Nine Donation Station meters have been installed in Iowa City's downtown area. The program hopes to encourage shoppers, business owners, and visitors to deposit spare change in the special purple meters to help fund local nonprofit services rather than giving money directly to a panhandler. The program, which will complement the City's newly adopted panhandling ordinance that restricts areas where panhandling can occur, hopes to curb aggressive soliciting in the downtown district and put funds into the hands of agencies that can provide necessary services and support for those truly in need.

Local law enforcement officials note that while panhandlers may lead people to believe they are down-and-out and homeless, that is sometimes not the case. Some of the solicitors are professionals who travel to Iowa City because it has been proven to be financially lucrative, while others are asking for money to support a drug or alcohol habit. Not all panhandlers are homeless, they emphasize, and certainly not all homeless people are panhandlers.

The Donation Stations are modeled after a similar, and highly successful, program in Denver, Colorado. The funds that are collected from the meters will be divided by several local nonprofit agencies that provide food, medical care, transportation, outreach, and other services to the community's homeless and low-income residents: Free Lunch Program, Iowa City Free Medical Clinic, Crisis Center, Community Mental Health Center PATH Program, Shelter House, and United Action for Youth.

"Putting a stop to panhandling will require a total community effort," stated Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek in a letter that was included in the Donations Station brochure. "The most effective deterrent is for citizens to pledge not to give money to panhandlers. We all feel compelled to help those in need, but there is a better way."

Online Producer: Jason Mortvedt

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