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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


City of Tucson to repurpose some parking meters as a way to donate to the homeless

Selena Quintanilla
Twenty new donation stations disguised as parking meters could be installed around downtown and University that donate money to homeless programs in Tucson.

The Tucson City Council approved a project on Sept. 20 that will allow people to donate to Tucson’s homeless via repurposed parking meters.

John Jacobs, the founder of Tucson Change Movement, put forth the proposal.

“Tucson Change Movement is a merchant-driven initiative to end homelessness in Tucson,” Jacobs said.

The meters will be painted a bright color, according to Jacobs, so people don’t get them confused with regular parking meters. He said people won’t actually be paying for parking on these stand-alone meters because they will be installed away from the actual street in high-traffic and high-visibility areas, including outside UA’s Main Gate Square.

“What we’re attempting to do is, instead of giving money to panhandlers where you don’t know where the money’s going to go … we’re removing the friction of that transaction … so that patrons know that when they put money into the Tucson Change Movement meters it goes directly to homeless programs,” Jacobs said.

Ninety-seven cents of every dollar will go directly toward homeless programs and the only charges for donating are from credit card processing, according to Jacobs.

Jacobs said the goal of this program is to deliver funds in a “transparent and efficient manner.” 

As far as who will oversee the program, Jacobs said the amount of money actually going toward homeless programs will remain significantly higher if bureaucracy is eliminated within the program.

“There’s a way that we can do this with far less overhead, with volunteer committees and by using infrastructure that’s already there,” Jacobs said. “We want to make sure that folks are very confident that when they give their money, these funds are going toward people—directly to people—that need this money.”

Council Member Steve Kozachik said the businesses are the ones who should be handling the program rather than the city council.

“The city does not need to put into place some large bureaucracy that’s going to cost more to operate than the system will generate,” Kozachik said.

Jacobs said he’s estimating that this program will generate approximately $100,000.

“We’re taking more of a business approach to solving a social problem—that’s kind of what makes this … program unique,” Jacobs said.

The four districts where the first 20 meters will be installed will include Mercado San Agustin, downtown Tucson, Forth Avenue and Main Gate Square right outside the UA campus, according to Jacobs.

Park Tucson Administrator Donovan Durband said Park Tucson will be installing and maintaining the meters at its own expense.

“The key is to get people excited about it, to get people to donate,” Durband said.

Council member Richard Fimbres said he also believes the city should not be the overseer of the program because the program was initially created to be a collaboration between the city and merchants.

“This is a start in trying to help people get back on their feet and help support some of the homeless programs we have in place,” Fimbres said. “We will be a part of it, but we want to make sure that the collaboration continues because it takes everybody.”

Fimbres said he estimates the meters will be installed by mid-November. He said this is perfect timing because the city will see an increase in the homeless population around the winter months.

Follow Jessica Suriano on Twitter.

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