City offering new alternative for helping the homeless

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Putting money into decorated meters around Colorado Springs will benefit the community’s homeless population.

Brightly colored decorated “parking” meters will soon be seen around Colorado Springs. The new meters aren’t some creative marketing plan to make paying for parking more enticing — they are part of a new program to help the homeless.
Five meters are already decorated and are presently on display at City Hall. Twenty-five meters are waiting to be decorated and we’re working on getting 20 more, but we need your help. We need business owners who are willing to place a meter in their business, volunteers to collect the money and deposit it in the bank, artists to decorate the meters and more.
If you would like to volunteer to help make this program a success and help the homeless in our community, contact Jerry Heimlicher at jheimlicher@springsgov.com or 385-5986.
Statistics show that residents of Colorado Springs are giving panhandlers about $1.5 million in handouts annually. Ninety-five percent of that is spent on alcohol, cigarette and drug purchases. Instead of giving money to panhandlers, residents will soon be able to put change in these special meters and know that their contribution will be used for something more positive — to address the issues of homelessness, drug dependency and alcohol abuse in our community.
The meters, which will accept pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, will be placed in retail establishments, schools, businesses and city buildings. The money collected will be delivered to Homeward Pikes Peak (the umbrella organization for homeless concerns) where it will be distributed to nonprofit agencies that deal with homeless, alcohol and drug issues.
Smokebrush Foundation, a local group that works with nonprofit organizations and artists to produce public art projects, will paint and decorate the meters to reflect the business or location that agrees to accept donations for the homeless.
For example, the meter can be painted in fiesta colors for a Mexican restaurant or like a steak for a steakhouse.
Thanks to a donation by Wal-Mart, Homeward Pikes Peak now has $2,500 to begin the program and hopes to cover all administrative expenses through donations so that 100 percent of the money put in the meters will be used to help those in need.
The goal is to have 50 meters in locations around Colorado Springs by the end of the year and 100 by the end of 2009.
Sue Skiffington-Blumberg is director of public communications for Colorado Springs.