New Berkeley donation boxes collect money to help homeless

BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) -- The City of Berkeley is testing a new way to increase donations for those in need, recently installing four metal donation boxes on lampposts downtown with all of the money going to an organization that provides services to the homeless.

"I think people want to do something positive for the homeless people, sometimes don't feel comfortable giving it directly and they'd rather give to an agency," said John Caner, CEO of the Berkeley Downtown Association.

Caner pushed city officials to approve a one year pilot of the program called Positive Change.

The association paid for the boxes and installation.

The program is seen as a way to reduce panhandling in the area and raise funds to support the city's homeless outreach efforts.

"Government funding funds a lot of what we do, but it doesn't fund everything," said Berkeley Food and Housing Project Executive Director Terrie Light.

Her agency will use the donated money to help the homeless with bus fare, to pay for personal items such as socks and toiletries and to cover the cost of id card application fees at the DMV.

"I think maybe to the average person it seems really simple, but these are things that can make or break a difference for a person," Light said.

The Berkeley program is designed after the one in Denver that officials say collects $100,000 a year.

The donation boxes are securely mounted and said to be tamper proof.

In six months, officials will evaluate how the program is going and add 6 more boxes if needed.