Saint John — The cities of Moncton and Saint John have followed Fredericton’s lead and installed Kindness Meters, a Band-Aid solution to panhandling that’s been shown not to work but that still lets upper-middle-class people feel good about themselves.
Kindness Meters are old parking meters, gussied up in bright colours and placed in urban areas where homeless people normally congregate to ask passersby for change. The change inside goes to organizations that help homeless people, rather than to the homeless themselves.
The Manatee approached a newly installed Kindness Meter Thursday afternoon and observed as several pedestrians ignored a nearby homeless person and instead dropped money inside the meter, taking selfies of their generous act for social media.
“I know my loonie and quarter will be divided between several hands and probably not even represent a drop in the bucket for the organizations the cash is supposedly helping, but I still prefer this to touching the soiled mitt of some vagrant,” said local man Matt Donaldson, who just minutes before this interview met his dealer in a shady alley and purchased some weed as well as a gram of Saint John’s finest cocaine.
“If I drop my donation in a Kindness Meter, at least I know the bum on the corner won’t be able to waste it on alcohol or drugs — or worse, another tattoo,” said the man whose limbs are covered in more than 20 tattoos and who had just returned from NB Liquor with enough wine and vodka for a massive party.
Donaldson has a full-time government job, and believes his position of security grants him the wisdom to know what should be done with other people’s money.
“Money is meant to provide people with warm, nourishing meals, with weather-appropriate clothing, and with shelter,” he said, rolling a joint and texting a friend to meet up for drinks, “but how can I trust homeless people to buy these things? They sadly don’t know how to take care of themselves and seem to think the solution to their problems is to numb their pain with alcohol and drugs.
“Man, I could use a beer,” he added, heading toward the bars on the boardwalk. “I’ve had a rough week.”