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Parking Meters for the Homeless in Denver

August 15, 2008

So it was just another early morning at the airport (Denver, today), grabbing a quick breakfast, when I spotted a parking meter at the entrance of the restaurant. You heard me: a parking meter!!


But at closer look, I realized this over-sized metal Q-Tip wasn’t your ordinary coffer for the state. It was identified with Denver’s Road Home, about which I knew nothing.

But in that instant, I did. What a whack-on-the-side-of-the-head kind of promotion.

On the meter, the drill-to-the-heart information:

  • $.50 helps a homeless person ride public transportation.
  • $1.50 buys a meal.
  • $20 provides a homeless family (60% of Denver’s homeless) with shelter, clothing, employment assistance and case management for a day.

I dumped all the change in my pockets into the machine and said a prayer.

The Denver Commission to End Homelessness, it turns out, plans to fix Denver’s severe homelessness problem in ten short years. The Parking Meter Program is just one piece of the puzzle. Its specific intentions cover a lot of ground:

  • Raise awareness for Denver’s 10 year plan to end homelessness (is that a big enough ambition for you?).
  • Raise $100,000 toward funding Denver’s Road Home.
  • “Redirect the money given to panhandlers into initiatives that provide meals, job training, substance abuse counseling, housing, and other programs for those in need.”

They are succeeding on all fronts. The meters imaginatively grab attention and teach (case in point: Me. Now I know about DRH and so do you). DRH raised $36,000 before the first meter went up, each meter has a $1000 sponsor, and the money continues to–literally–pour in. (If you don’t believe the nickels and dimes add up, consider that Dollar General’s spare change jars at their cash registers raised over $11 million for literacy initiatives last year.) And, DRH reports that because their 86 meters are placed in high panhandling areas, panhandling is down 92%, and more and more homeless people utilize other, more beneficial services the city, their non-profits, and their churches offer.

Denver’s Road Home knows how to put a promotion together that makes a difference while it makes impressions. Every major city in America needs to set aside all pretense of pride and steal this program. May Donation Meters sprout up everywhere.

Epilogue: When I landed in Salt Lake City and parked in front of a real parking meter, I had nothing to give it. I smiled at God’s sense of humor. Worth every penny.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Wayne permalink
    August 15, 2008 1:41 pm

    So, are you saying that you haven’t noticed the homeless meters in downtown Nashville? They have been up for a few years. They even have a sign on them warning you not to give $’s to individuals on the street, for your own safety, but rather to put your money in the meters.

  2. August 15, 2008 1:48 pm

    No, never. How many are there?

  3. Wayne permalink
    August 16, 2008 1:49 pm

    I’m not sure exactly how many, but I know there were a number of them (10 to 20) near downtown venues. I used to pass the one outside of Municiple Auditorium. I forget who gets the money, but I think it went to the Nashville Mission (but don’t quote me on that). I don’t go downtown anymore so I can’t swear that they are still there.

    After re-reading my first post I realize it might come off as being smartalecy. Sorry about that. Just meant to be informative.

  4. September 29, 2008 9:38 pm

    Glad you liked the meters!

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