MANCHESTER -- Local artists on Thursday unveiled the latest in downtown art — repainted parking meters that are designed to entice spare change from pedestrians before they are hit up by panhandlers.
Within days, the meters should be installed at several locations in the city. Money collected will be turned over to New Horizons, the homeless shelter and soup kitchen in the city.
Organizers of the effort — city Alderman Pat Long, New Horizons head Charlie Sherman, Friends of Manchester Art — were on hand Thursday evening when the artists unveiled the meters in a vacant lot besides New Horizons.
Long said most people know not to give to panhandlers, but they do so to avoid feeling guilty. With the meters, they can now drop their coins in the meters and then tell panhandlers about their contribution. The program has proven successful in Baltimore, Minneapolis and Denver.
“This is what you’re supposed to be doing. All the churches say give to the homeless,” he said.
All meters are different.
Manchester resident Colleen O’Connor had black indigenous designs on earth tones like purple and oranges, hues that developed surprisingly when primary colors blended together, she said.
Carolina Chauvette provided a Latino feel to her meter, painting bright renditions of vines, tropical birds and flowers against a white background.
Her fiancee, Paul Davidson, used a yellow background and drew small black stick figures walking up a hill, swimming at a pool or just hanging out.
“How often do you get to paint a meter? You might as well do something unique,” he said.
Each will carry a sticker explaining it is not a parking meter and all the money collected goes to New Horizons.
Long said they meters could go up as early as today. He said the electronic readout will be dismantled, and they have been fitted to accept even pennies.
Sherman said his dream is that each meter will collect $10 a day. That would amount to nearly $22,000 a year.
Sherman said most panhandlers are not homeless, and the money they collect often goes to food or alcohol.
“If they’re homeless,” he said, “they should be at New Horizons. If they’re hungry, they should be at New Horizons.”