Unnecessary coins can make large change

Unnecessary coins can make large change

Becky Headshot

Rebecca Lee

Going to Gino’s corner market after school for four years adds up, literally. I’ve collected so much spare change in my wallet from buying 99-cent chips and other inexpensive snacks that sometimes it seems like coins are the heaviest item in my backpack, but I don’t know how to get rid of them.

Usually to lighten my load, I empty my wallet out into my family’s communal coin vase, and then the cycle starts all over again.

The spare change helps my mom feed a parking meter, but I could also pass it onto people who could use the money — the homeless.

It seems like a hassle to stop, fish out my wallet and clunk a couple of coins into their old, Starbucks cups. I usually get a grin if I do, but it’s not always the best method to help the less fortunate.

Although it should be a simple task to do so, a potential donor can be deterred by giving change because she does not know what the money is going to be used it for. There’s sometimes the underlying suspicion that the change will be used to buy drugs or alcohol rather than food and other necessities.

There were 6,455 people living on the streets in San Francisco in 2011, according to SFgov.org, but many people do not give to the homeless, assuming it’s their fault of the homeless that they ended up on the streets.

Forward-thinking cities such as San Francisco have adapted homeless meters — innovative orange parking meter-looking devises — that allow pedestrians to insert money that will be donated directly to organizations that help the homeless. These weapons to combat panhandling are set up along Market Street and Van Ness Avenue because these streets draw a large amount of the homeless everyday.

Although there is no way to know if these meter collector are helping the homeless more or less than the homeless make by panhandling, the meters seem to be a better solution than a handout.

If I pass a homeless meter, I’ll pat my pockets down to find a couple of coins and plunk them into it because even the smallest change makes a huge difference.