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The rise and fall of Providence’s giving meters

One of Providence's giving meters outside of City Hall.Dan McGowan/Globe Staff

The final numbers are in, and it turns out that Providence’s bright orange giving meters cost $8,000 more to install than they generated in donations over a five-year period between 2017 and 2022.

Former Providence mayor Jorge Elorza didn’t announce it publicly, but his administration quietly removed the 11 donation stations installed across the city last summer. New Mayor Brett Smiley is not planning to reinstall them.

In the end, the meters and the website PVDgives.org generated $2,956.15 over nearly five years. They cost $1,000 each to install.

Elorza had good intentions when he unveiled the meters in 2017, part of a broader effort by his administration to address aggressive panhandling and homelessness in the city. The former mayor made the first – and largest – donation of $100.


The funds were supposed to be earmarked for organizations that help people who are experiencing homelessness, but a five-member volunteer commission that was supposed to be in charge of distributing the donations met just once – in 2017.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.