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‘Change for the Better’ meters collect $2,700 in 2018 to help reduce homelessness
City seeks more applicants for program grant awards

A donation station on Cortez Street is one of seven such parking-meter-style collection points that were installed around Prescott’s downtown during 2018. (Cindy Barks/Courier, file)

A donation station on Cortez Street is one of seven such parking-meter-style collection points that were installed around Prescott’s downtown during 2018. (Cindy Barks/Courier, file)

The loose change from Prescott residents and visitors continues to accumulate in the City of Prescott’s program aimed at alleviating homelessness and panhandling in the community.

Since the “Change for the Better” program went into effect in spring 2018, the city has collected about $2,700 from the meters that were installed in key panhandling spots around the downtown.

Tyler Goodman, assistant to the city manager, reported this past week that donations in the parking-meter-style collection points have decreased a bit during the cold-weather months, but are still healthy.

“There is a difference between summer and winter,” Goodman said, noting that donations dropped after the busy summer tourism season. Still, he said, the weekly collections have totaled between $40 and $70 per week.

During the summer, the city was collecting between $85 and $100 from the meters each week.

In recent months, the city increased the number of meters from four to seven, and also installed cash boxes on two of the meters. New meters were installed mid-block on Cortez, at the Cortez/Willis intersection, and on South Montezuma Street.

The meters were installed to encourage people to give to programs that help homeless people, rather than to panhandlers on the streets.

Goodman noted that the money from the meters is collected each week by the Prescott Police Department’s Citizens on Patrol volunteers, who have reported that the new cash boxes have been filled.

A Jan. 7 news release from the city states: “There has been an overwhelmingly positive response from the community, and this support has provided aid to local nonprofits and individuals.”

Of the $2,700 raised through the program in 2018, though, just $750 has been awarded to date. Goodman said the program awarded three grants of $250 each to help with transportation and housing needs. Those awards were made based on applications from eligible organizations that help the homeless.

Since then, however, Goodman said the city has had few applications. “We don’t have any right now that are pending,” he said.

Organizations interested in applying for funds through the Change for the Better program can do so online at: http://www.prescott-az.gov/city-management/leadership/programs-2/homelessness-initiative/.

“We’re open and ready for more applications,” Goodman said, noting that the application process is brief and easy to complete. A group made up of city staff, City Council members, and a representative from a downtown hotel have considered past requests.

Meanwhile, the “Workers Progress Agency” — a partnership between the city and the Coalition for Compassion and Justice (CCJ) that aimed to put homeless people to work cleaning up city parks and rights-of-way — also continued throughout much of the summer and fall of 2018.

Goodman said the city’s contribution of $9,500 lasted for about four or five months from mid-summer through autumn. At that point, he said, city officials determined that the program should transition to being funded by seeking work on private property.

Although future city involvement with the Workers Progress Agency has yet to be determined, Goodman said it is possible that the city would consider adding more money to the program during the upcoming budget discussions for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

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