Five local taxicab companies have made an agreement with Annapolis to transport the homeless during the winter, a move that will eliminate the need for a police lieutenant to pick people up in his private bus.
"Anything I can do to help somebody who's down and out, I'm for that," said Robert Eades, a driver for Neet N Kleen Cab Co., one of the companies working with the city.
People who appear to need shelter will be referred by police officers and other city officials to one of the five companies. A driver will be dispatched to pick up and take the person to a residential shelter, such as the Lighthouse Shelter on West Street, or to a nutrition site.
Neet N Kleen, Yellow Cab Co., Annapolis Cab Co., Checker Cab Co. and Reliable Cab Co. have agreed to participate.
Elaine Wagner, manager of Yellow Cab, said her company did not hesitate when city transportation officials approached it with the idea last month.
"We are customer service-based and community-based," Wagner said. "This is what we do. We give back."
Lending a hand to the homeless is nothing new to Eades, who says he has been doling out hats, blankets and gloves from his cab for a decade.
Eades and the other cabdrivers will be paid a flat rate of $5 for trips in the greater Annapolis area, said Danielle Matland, Annapolis' director of transportation.
Instead of their usual cab fare, the drivers will receive a voucher, which they will submit to the city, Matland said.
"This is a much better system than what we had, which was nothing in the way of transportation," said Mayor Ellen O. Moyer.
The idea to work with taxicabs was raised after city officials learned of police Lt. Robert E. Beans' plans to drive his personal motor coach around the city picking up homeless people and possibly housing them on the vehicle.
The use of a personal bus would have posed legal problems, so the city pursued using taxicab companies instead, officials said.
Nevertheless, Beans said his bus is "still plugged in and ready to go at the turn of a key," if necessary.
"We can't just leave people out in the cold," he said.