[Hpn] Nashville, TN - When you feed the red meters, you aid homeless - The Tennessean - December 10, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Thu, 11 Dec 2003 05:38:17 -0500

When you feed the red meters, you aid homeless

By Gail Kerr - The Tennessean - December 10, 2003

Nashville, TN - In the grand scheme of things, $100 or so
isn't going to solve the problem of the homelessness in

But it helps. That is, at most, the total amount the city
collects from a handful of former parking meters each

They were painted red and placed strategically around town
in 1994 with signs urging people to drop in change to help
the homeless, rather than give it to a panhandler who
probably will use it to buy booze.

All the meter money averages $8 in a bad month and up to
$100 in a good one.

The meters didn't stop panhandling. But they do provide
money to pay utility deposits and the first rounds of rent
for those homeless folks who are tirelessly working their
way off the streets.

''For the person who needs that $100 to get into housing,
it's the difference'' in getting off the street, said Polly
Bullock, business manager for the National Health Care for
the Homeless Council.

She volunteers with the Walk for the Homeless, an annual
event that raises money for apartment deposits and rents.
They get the meter money and filter it through agencies and
caseworkers who help the homeless take steps toward finding
and affording a place to live.

''We pay the utility companies directly for whatever is
requested,'' she said. ''That money, over the years, has
helped a number of people.''

Gwen Hopkins, Metro Public Works Department spokeswoman,
said the meters are at the McDonald's on West End Avenue, at
Riverfront Park, Municipal Auditorium and at Second Avenue
North and Commerce Street.

''We collect from the meters once a month,'' she said.
''They are already collecting from the other parking meters,
so it's no extra work.''

One estimate says there are 3,500 people in Nashville, every
night, who have no place to call home except the streets.

Tony Halton, program specialist with the homeless council,
said there is not a firm number.

''There appears to have been a migration of more homeless
people going out to the suburbs,'' he said. ''This has been
a process that has been occurring over the last 10 years or
so. I'm not quite sure what the reason for that is. Some of
it might be the steady displacement of homeless people from
the traditional areas where they were living downtown.''

Nationally, and here, he said, the homeless increasingly
include women and children. That's partly because of welfare
reform but can be traced to domestic violence. A woman flees
a scary situation with her kids and has nowhere to go.

The parking meters for the homeless don't even scratch the
surface of the whole problem. And people still stand at
corners with their ''Will Work for Food'' signs, begging for
money that most likely won't be spent on food.

''There are certain sections of the city where you still see
panhandling,'' Halton said, ''but it gives Nashvillians an
opportunity who really want to help the homeless to provide
that type of charity without having to give to a

It's an opportunity to be charitable to the homeless
community anonymously. It's just pocket change.''

Pocket change turned into a little hope. This holiday
season, when you're digging out coins for the red kettles,
put a few in the red meters, too.

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