Old coin-operated parking meters are taking on a new life in a southwestern Ontario city -- raising money 24-hours a day to help the homeless.

Five “kindness meters” have been set up in high-traffic public spaces in London, Ont., targeting passersby who want to help the less fortunate, but may not feel comfortable handing over money directly.

The idea has popped up in a number of Canadian urban centres. Lincoln McCardle lobbied for about two years to bring the meters to London after discovering one in Ottawa.

“We just thought it was such a good idea,” he told CTV London.

McCardle had the five machines re-keyed and painted bright blue. He said the local Salvation Army has agreed to collect the coins in exchange for directing 40 per cent of the proceeds towards their in-house charity initiatives.

The fate of the remaining 60 per cent will be determined by suggestions on the Kindness Meters London Facebook page.

McCardle said the project is not aimed at curbing panhandling or replacing other charities. He just wants to give people who want to help more options.

“I am hopeful that at least we can make a difference,” he said. “I’ll be the first to admit in a perfect world kindness meters would not be necessary.”

At a local park, Allyson Steven stopped to give one of the new meters a try. She said she likes the fact that the money will go directly to charities.

“I am a bit uncomfortable when somebody is asking me for money,” she said. “At least (now) you know it is going somewhere specifically.”

With a report from CTV London’s Reta Ismail