Meters help homeless in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield has new parking meters, but there are no plans to charge residents for downtown parking.

Instead, the red parking meters are an effort to raise money to help the homeless.

City Councilor Terri Leezer is the driving force behind the fundraising effort that got under way Friday. A 50-cent donation to one of the meters buys a homeless person a shower, $1 provides a hot meal, $3 means a bus pass and a $5 donation translates to a sleeping bag purchase, Leezer said.

A similar effort was made in Denver. A homelessness commission report in that city found that in the first 18 months the meter project led to a 92 percent reduction in the number of panhandlers in the downtown improvement district.

"As silly as it sounds, it makes a tremendous amount of sense," said Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken.

Collecting spare change from people can make a big difference without overwhelming those being asked to give, he said.

"That loose change can clearly add up," he said.

Denver's 86 meters generate approximately $100,000 in revenue for homeless programs.

Leezer also found support from St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County. When Executive Director Terry McDonald heard about it, he instantly wrote a check to buy two dozen used parking meters from the city of Portland to get the ball rolling.

Bud Johnson, who owns Acme Collision, painted the meters a bright glossy red. Signs affixed to the meters explain the program, titled Change for Change.

Besides the individual donations, business are being asked to sponsor individual meters for $250 a year.

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