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What are the black-and-yellow parking meters in downtown Wilmington?

Si Cantwell

The black-and-yellow meters, actually repainted parking meters, are being installed to reduce panhandling. Any money citizens deposite in the meters (instead of giving coins to panhandlers) will help agencies that assist the homeless.

The first Make a Change meter was installed July 22 in front of the U.S. Post Office on North Front Street.

As of Oct. 6, said Dan Ferrell, project manager for the local 10-Year Plan, five meters were installed: at the post office, in front of the main branch of the New Hanover County Public Library, in front of the New Hanover County Courthouse, by City Hall/Thalian Hall and near Front Street’s Bailey Theater Park.

Within a month or so, another five or six will go up at various locations downtown identified as hot spots for pandhandling, which is illegal in the downtown area.

Officials with the 10-Year Plan encourage people to put quarters in the meters when they are approached by people asking for “spare change.”

Homeless advocates recommend against giving money to panhandlers. Such donations do little to stop homelessness and the behavior can increase the stigma against homelessness.

“Not all panhandlers are homeless and not all homeless are panhandlers,” Ferrell said.

He and part-time employee Brandi Tanger work out of offices at United Way of the Cape Fear Area. The 10-Year Plan effort is funded by the city of Wilmington, New Hanover County [Map this] and the local United Way.

But how much money are they bringing in to fight the homeless problem? The so called “yellow meters” (thought they’re mostly black) have only been in place a few weeks, and the two staffers with the 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness and Reduce Homelessness in the Cape Fear Region have not emptied them yet.

He said a collection will be made sometime in coming weeks and we’ll update this question when a figure is available.

But Ferrell warns not to expect too much.

“We don’t expect those to be big money-makers,” he said. “We do want them to be a deterrent to panhandling.”

— Si Cantwell

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