Repurposed parking meters to make change for homeless

Repurposed parking meters to make change for homeless

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson is joining other U.S. cities in repurposing old parking meters into donation meters to help the homeless.

The meters may soon appear along the streetcar line in front of about 80 merchant storefronts in downtown Tucson at the beginning of April.

"There's a lot of panhandling down here," said John Jacobs, chairman of the Downtown Merchants Association. "That kind of activity does affect the businesses and it affects visitors down in this area."

The new program is called the Tucson Change Movement.

Jacobs said the program will consist of three collection components: physical meters on the street, collection devices in stores along the streetcar line, and an online app.

Jacobs said the funds will be administered by the Community Foundation of Southern of Arizona.

They will collect donations from the meters and the city will separately account for the donations.

They will deliver a check to a chosen recipient on a regular basis based on experience once the program is up and running.

Jacobs also said transparency is an objective for this program.

"Anybody should be able to look at our website and see exactly where these funds are going," he said.

Some residents, like Carol Hickman, who also works in downtown Tucson, worry this effort to alleviate homelessness will not be enough.

"I just don't think people would put money into a meter," Hickman said. "I really feel bad for the homeless people, I just don't think putting in meters is the answer."

Cities like Los Angeles and Denver have already been successful in their endeavors to help the homelessness through similar programs.

Julie Smith, spokeswoman for the Denver's Road Home, said they launched the program in 2007 as a way to curb panhandling.

Smith said the average annual meter donation between 2007 and 2013 saw a high of $10,000.

"It's not a lot, but it's still better than zero," Smith said. "You have to keep front and center."

She said she saw a spike in donations when the program partnered with the Denver International Airport.

Donations from collection meters at the Denver International Airport brought in $88,000 last year.

As of 2014, Denver's program reeled in a total of $207,000 through sponsorships and donations.

The next step for the program in Tucson is to contact TIA to determine interest for implementing a similar donation system as the one seen in Denver's airport.

"Maybe we can't end homelessness," Jacobs said, "but we sure as heck can put some brain power behind it and some resources behind it and make a dent in it."

For more information about the Tucson Change Movement, visit their Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TucsonChange/

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