San Rafael's meter project to help homeless kicks off next week

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Could the change in your pockets change lives? The city of San Rafael thinks so and is preparing to launch an effort encouraging people to put their money in a special meter rather than give it to panhandlers.

Instead of giving spare change to a panhandler, San Rafael wants you to feed the meter; a purple meter that will even take credit cards.

The money will go to the Downtown Streets Team, an organization that gives non-cash stipends to homeless participants.

"I figure it's a win-win for taxpayers, a win-win for the homeless themselves, and a win-win for people who want to see the money go to something good," said Logan McDonnell with the Downtown Streets Team.

Marion Scott is on the Downtown Streets Team and calls the meters a more dignified approach for the homeless and those who want to give.

"You're giving of your own free will," he said. "There's no one that's sitting in front of you."

Local merchants will be able to pay to put their logos on the meters and that money also helps the effort. Business owner and Chamber of Commerce leader Stephanie Plante calls the program a proactive approach

"Everybody parks there car on the city street so it's a viable option to provide people with a chance to give," she said.

Several cities nationwide have adopted the homeless meters. San Francisco dropped the idea years ago because critics called it a gimmick. But people in San Rafael want to give it a chance.

And one man tells us the spare change will help a program that once helped him turn his life around.

"Put me back on my feet, I'm a productive worker now," he said.

The meter program kicks off late next week.
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