As Panhandling Donation Stations Show Weak Numbers, City Focuses On Other Efforts

Jul 26, 2018

The five yellow donation stations in Downtown Cincinnati, installed as an alternative to giving money to panhandlers, haven't seen a lot of donations since they were installed about a year ago.

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) reports between $300 to $350 has been collected from the re-purposed parking meters.

"We would like to see more money collected at the meters, but at this point I think we hope people donate on the website," said Joe Rudemiller, who's the director of communications for 3CDC. "We hope people go to the website, learn more about what we're doing and are then compelled to hopefully donate to support these programs, which we think really have the ability to have a great impact on those folks who are in need in Downtown."

The stations are part of a broader strategy, called GeneroCity 513, to reduce aggressive panhandling in the Central Business District. Besides the donation stations, the pilot project includes a Jobs Van and additional outreach workers.

The Jobs Van is operated by City Gospel Mission. It runs four days a week and visits random locations to offer panhandlers a job for the day by working on community beautification projects.

Thru July 23, the van had operated nine days, with 85 riders, cleaning 46 miles of roads and collecting 234 bags of trash.

"The van driver is trained and is an outreach worker himself and he's trying to connect those individuals with social service agencies," Rudemiller said. "So whether they need help with substance abuse, permanent housing, long-term employment, he's trying to help connect them with social service agencies that can help the individuals in need."

Fourteen of the riders had been connected to other social services as a result of riding the van.

Participants on the Jobs Van are provided a free lunch and are paid in cash at the end of day. The pay rate in $9 an hour.

GeneroCity 513 is also funding two additional outreach workers to provide assistance to panhandlers.

"Those folks are working with some of the more difficult cases," Rudemiller said. "What they're really trying to do is build trust and rapport with the individuals on the street, with again the goal of connecting them with some social service agencies. So I think that's going to take a little bit more time for us to see those results."

GeneroCity 513 is a partnership involving 3CDC; Downtown Cincinnati Inc.; City of Cincinnati; City Gospel Mission; Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services; and Strategies to End Homelessness.

The groups developed a task force to study an increasing problem with aggressive panhandling in the city. The task force interviewed residents, business owners and panhandlers as part of its work. It also reviewed best practices and programs to address panhandling from other cities.

The money collected from the donation stations and through the website is used to fund the effort, which has a first-year budget of $275,000. Right now the groups involved have only secured enough funding for the initial year.