A very Berkeley initiative approved by the Berkeley City Council called The Positive Change program aims to make giving to resources for the homeless as easy as it is to give to them directly. As Berkeleyside reports, the city is in the midst of installing 10 tamper-proof donation boxes to be distributed around downtown Berkeley, and though some have criticized the program's potential to divert money from panhandlers directly, others argue that it will tap some who are unwilling to give cash to the homeless for a variety of reasons.
Donations will be collected once weekly by the Downtown Berkeley Association, who, along with the Berkeley Food and Housing Project and the City of Berkeley are program partners. Money raised from the boxes will go toward a variety of services, including transportation assistance, which funds bus and BART tickets, toiletries, and the Homeward Bound program, which funds bus tickets and other incidental expenses to allow homeless persons to return home, reuniting them with family or friends who provide a long-term stable living situation.
The program is based on ones in San Diego and Denver: The latter raised $100,000 by turning old parking meters into donation boxes, but in Berkeley, the boxes were constructed specifically for this purpose. City Councilman Jesse Arreguín thinks of the program not as a competitor to panhandling, but a complement to it. "I do not support [the program] as an alternative to panhandling... The reality is that there are some people who will feel more comfortable donating to a box, knowing that the money will directly go to services which will improve homelessness."