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Homelessness donation box gets makeover

Others were removed after they were broken into; new container is more secure
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An orange donation box hangs outside of the Black Swan Theatre Tuesday in downtown Ashland. Julia Moore / Daily TidingsJulia Moore
 Posted: 2:00 AM April 10, 2013

Ashland has reinstalled a donation box to benefit homeless people after giving it a makeover to be more visible and secure.

The orange donation box now hangs near a small plaza in front of the Black Swan Theatre downtown.

The small plaza is a frequent gathering place for panhandlers and street musicians.

Last summer, Ashland installed three white donation boxes in various spots downtown but had to remove them after all the paper money was fished out and stolen over a six-week period.

It's unknown how many people were responsible for the thefts or who they were.

In late July, a homeless man was arrested for allegedly using a wire hook to steal money out of a box near the Black Swan Theatre.

The donation boxes were widely panned by members of the homeless community, many of whom said they would rather receive donations directly on the street.

A few weeks ago, the newly designed orange box went up on a trial basis, said Graham Lewis, a member of the city of Ashland's Homeless Steering Committee and the staff photographer and volunteer coordinator for the Ashland Chamber of Commerce.

The box was re-engineered so that people could not steal money out of it. The orange color also stands out better than the previous white donation boxes, Lewis said.

A citizen and a volunteer from the St. Vincent's de Paul social services organization remove money at random intervals, rather than following a schedule, he said.

They take the money to People's Bank in Ashland, where an account has been set up to aid homeless people, Lewis said.

Donations will help fund efforts that include St. Vincent de Paul programs to help people get off the streets and avoid falling into homelessness in the first place.

The orange box near the Black Swan Theatre may be moved to the downtown Plaza now that a major project to reconstruct the Plaza has wrapped up, Lewis said.

"So many people loiter on the corner in front of the Black Swan that it's intimidating for people to put money in the box," Lewis said. "I've heard some of the loitering folks say, 'Give us the money. Don't put it in the box.' "

If the newly designed donation box proves to be a success — both in the safety department and in the donations it garners — the other two donation boxes will also be re-engineered and put up again, Lewis said.

People who would like to make donations but who don't feel comfortable using the Ashland donation box can send checks to People's Bank of Commerce, 1500 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland, OR 97520.

Write out checks to the "Homeless Account" at the bank. Write "St. Vincent's" in the subject line.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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