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‘Spare Change Meters’ off to slow start in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 19. 2014 9:40PM

MANCHESTER — A city initiative launched last summer to collect donations to benefit a local homeless shelter is being called a success, though the amount of funds raised thus far falls short of what organizers had hoped.

Last July, six so-called “Spare Change Meters” were set up around Manchester to collect donations that people otherwise may have given directly to panhandlers. The donations collected are then given directly to New Horizons, which offers food and shelter to the homeless.

New Horizons Executive Director Charlie Sherman said he hoped the meters would raise $10 a day, generating nearly $22,000 a year. Last week, Sherman said those hopes had yet to be realized.

“We had averaged about $100 per month up until the cold and snow arrived,” said Sherman. “The last two months it’s dropped to about half that, and I think it’s due to less people being out and about in the cold weather. I still consider it a success, as even $1,000 over a years’ time can provide dinner in our soup kitchen for a couple hundred people.”

Each meter carries a sticker explaining it is not a parking meter, and that all the money collected goes to New Horizons.

The electronic readouts on the meters have been dismantled, and they have been reconfigured to accept even pennies. The first $260 in donations will be used to reimburse the city for installation of the meters, and all donations received after that benefits New Horizons.

Similar programs in Baltimore, Minneapolis and Denver have proven successful.

“In Denver, their meter program was launched in 2007 and raises over $100,000 for homeless programs in that city,” said Sherman.

Sherman said that while the meters are painted by local artists to look different than parking meters, more could be done to make the public aware of their purpose.

“The meters still need to have better signage to let people know about the program,” said Sherman. “It is my hope that we will get that done in the spring, and that should help raise the amount donated. I often hear people comment about the meters and the art work on them, but they aren’t aware of why they are there.”

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