Parking meters that take donations for homeless are installed in SLO

The two-year Change for Change program seeks to reduce panhandling downtown

acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 24, 2014 

A new effort to reduce panhandling in downtown San Luis Obispo launched Wednesday.

Seven designated parking meters, converted to accept donations specifically for the Prado Day Center, were installed at various locations downtown.

The two-year pilot Change for Change program is a partnership between the city, the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association and the United Way of San Luis Obispo County.

Money from the meters, which accept change and credit-card donations, will be given to the United Way and then dispersed to the Friends of Prado Day Center to be used at the city’s only day shelter for programs intended to transition people out of homelessness.

Each meter received a $1,000 sponsorship, including one from Mayor Jan Marx. That money will also be given to Friends of Prado Day Center.

The meters are the city’s latest effort to curb a growing number of transients who panhandle and loiter downtown. Last year the Police Department also launched a two-person Community Action Team to deal directly with repeat offenders.

“We want to support solutions and not addictions,” said Marx at a dedication ceremony Thursday morning. “This is about moving away from destructive behavior.”

Meters are installed at locations prime for panhandling, including the entrance to Mission Plaza, near the parking structure on Marsh Street and at the entrance of the Downtown Plaza.

The goal is to provide a way for people who want to donate money to help the homeless to do so without enabling addictive behavior.

The Police Department and the Downtown Association have been working for more than a year to launch the program.

Downtown businesses will be asked to post fliers about the new program in their windows to make people aware.

“The Directed Giving Campaign and the Change for Change Donations Station program is an example of such a partnership that will raise awareness and provide an immediate alternative to give directly in a meaningful way while simultaneously helping to change the existing culture, which enables destructive behaviors and damages the fabric of our community,” police Chief Steve Gesell said in a news release.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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