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Parking meters similar to these will be used, to help the homeless (Source: Tucson News Now)
Parking meters similar to these will be used, to help the homeless (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Tucson city leaders will approve a program to install 20 parking meters that will allow people to donate to help the homeless.

"It's in response to the backlash over aggressive panhandling," said John Jacobs, founder of Tucson Change Movement. "The downtown merchants were looking for a solution."

The parking meters will be donated by the IPS Group, which makes Tucson's "smart" parking meters and will be installed near the Main Gate, Downtown, 4th Avenue and some west side locations.

The parking meters will not replace the pay parking meters but will be in addition to them.

"They're real parking meters, they look just like parking meters," Jacobs said. "Except they will be a bright orange or yellow, we're still deciding."

They will be located in high pedestrian traffic areas on city rights of way where they will not impede traffic flow. The idea is to get people who would like to contribute to the homeless cause but have some anxiety issues a way to do it easily and confidently.

Often times people are reluctant to give because they don't know if the money will be spent wisely or they are uncomfortable giving small change to people who ask for it.

"If I make it really easy to put money into the meter or a collection device and I know where that money is going to go and I know it's going to go to correct real problems, then we find we can unlock some of that potential giving," Jacobs said.

Tucson City Council Member Richard Fimbres, who is part of the working group that is putting the final touches on the program said he hopes "the city involvement is minimal."

The city will not decide who gets the money and how much. That decision comes from the working group, which include downtown merchants and advocates for the homeless.

He says that will insure "the money will go to valuable services to help the population that needs it."

The group hopes to raise $100,000, which will not cover the needs of the population, but can serve as seed money for a non-profit start-up or for grant applications. But it can also serve to help the homeless with the little things that they need to improve their lives.

"There's a lot of fold in our community who need ways to move on to go get back to their family or to get a new battery in their vehicle to get going," said Fimbres.

Those are not big ticket items, but are things many can't afford.

Other cities like Seattle, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Denver have already installed the meters and have raised several hundred thousand dollars.

"It's been very successful in other communities," Jacobs said.