New meters will help city’s homeless



Tracey Tong/metro ottawa


Rideau-Vanier ward councillor Georges Bedard deposits a loonie in one of the city’s new ‘kindness meters’ in the ByWard Market yesterday, as Mayor Larry O’Brien looks on.

Ottawans who want to give spare change to those less fortunate are being urged to dump their coins into a ‘kindness meter’ rather than into panhandlers’ outstretched palms.

Six old parking meters got a new lease on life yesterday as Mayor Larry O’Brien and Rideau-Vanier ward councillor Georges Bedard launched a pilot project that aims to change the way Ottawans help the city’s homeless, while addressing the problem of panhandling in the core.

Kindness meters, which are part of the city’s Give Smart program, are installed around the ByWard Market. Money deposited in the meters will go directly to shelters and other organizations that help the homeless.

“Citizens of Ottawa are extremely charitable and now they can be assured their money will be going to the proper resources,” said O’Brien. “I believe putting that extra loonie in the kindness meter is the best way to give money that truly helps the homeless.”

Donations given to some panhandlers with the best intentions have the possibility of funding their addictions, O’Brien said.

Greg Brousseau, who was panhandling outside Ottawa Public Library yesterday, said he didn’t like the idea of the meters. “It’s better to give change to us than the meter,” he said.

Panhandler Reg Ball agreed, saying people were more likely to give money to a person than to feed another machine.

But giving money to agencies that work with the homeless rather than individual panhandlers help more people in the long run, said Bedard, adding that meters installed in Montreal, for example, each bring in $700 a week.

“I think it gives people who are looking to help people another option of how they would like to donate,” said Diane Morrison, executive director of the Ottawa Mission.

Jasna Jennings, executive director of the ByWard Market Business Improvement Area, called the project innovative and proactive. “This gives citizens and tourists alike an opportunity to make a difference to those truly in need,” she said.

Helping out

  • Painted white to distinguish them from parking meters, the ‘kindness meters’ collect money that benefits Operation Go Home, the Ottawa Mission, the Salvation Army, Shepherds of Good Hope, and the city’s Canadian Mental Health Association branch.