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spare a dime

To discourage panhandling, cities are installing meters for loose change

More and more parking-style meters are popping up in cities across the United States, encouraging passerby to drop in their loose change in lieu of giving it to panhandlers.

The program began in Denver in 2007, and there are now 700 meters in the country, which accept cash and credit cards. The latest meters have been installed in Pasadena, California; Indianapolis; and New Haven, Connecticut, where four have been placed in areas where panhandling has been an issue. While the money is given to programs that help the homeless, Mark Horvath, founder of the homeless advocacy group Invisible People, told The Associated Press the meters further stereotypes that the homeless panhandle to support their drug and alcohol use.

"A huge percentage of people who are panhandling are in housing, but they can't afford to make ends meet," he said. "There are so many better solutions than putting up meters, like the permanent support of affordable housing and a living wage." It's not illegal to panhandle, he added, and people who need money will still ask for it, meters or not. So far, there is no data or studies to show that the meters are reducing panhandling, but supporters say they still are worth installing as part of a bigger attempt to combat homelessness.