From WILL - News Local/State -

Champaign Parking Meters Installed To Help Homeless

Make Real Change parking meter

A "Make Real Change" parking meter in downtown Champaign (photo courtesy of Community Elements)

The city of Champaign hopes to provide a direct funding source to programs serving the homeless and runaway youth.

Four parking meters have been installed downtown and in Campustown to support those efforts, and address the issue of panhandling. 

The Champaign Center Partnership has partnered with Community Elements to set up the meters, basing the plan on meter programs in cities like Nashville and Athens, Ga.

Community Elements CEO Sheila Ferguson said people downtown with spare change still have the option of helping those who ask for money on the street.

“But this choice allows people to say ‘hey, there is something else I can do with my change," she said. "And I think we’re also trying to educate people about how small amounts of coins, for example after visiting local businesses, can really make a difference.”

The city of Lawrence, Kan. installed six meters in the downtown area two years ago. 

Loring Henderson is executive director of the Lawrence Community Shelter. He said all the money raised in those meters goes to help people through his organization. Through June 30 this year, Henderson said the shelter has raised a total of $55.

“It’s a good public education tool for us," Henderson said.  "I’m glad we’re doing it.  I don’t measure entirely by the money – I never thought it would help our budget particularly. I wanted it to help the panhandling issue. I wanted it to help community relations.”

Meanwhile, Sandy Pickup with the Crisis Center in Iowa City said her agency averages around $200 in donations every few months through those meters. The donations in the city are split up with two other groups.

Champaign Center Partnership Executive Director T.J. Blakeman said there is not a specific fundraising goal in mind, but the city will monitor their success over the course of a year.  

Ferguson said additional ‘Make Real Change’ meters could be installed - helping areas like the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and local mental health programs.

Categories: Community, Economics, Health