- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - A new initiative in downtown Detroit uses repurposed parking meters to collect donations for nonprofits that serve the homeless.

The first phase of the “Detroit Donates” campaign launched Tuesday with 17 meters in both public and private spaces. The initial pilot phase will be concentrated in the city’s central business district, with plans to expand next into Campus Martius Park.

“Homelessness is a real issue,” City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield said during a news conference Tuesday. “It’s something that we must address. It cannot be ignored.”

Donations for the program will be collected by depositing coins into the meters, by corporate sponsorship and through the Detroit Donates website. Organizers expect much of the profit to be driven by corporate sponsorships with levels of commitment ranging from $1,500 to $7,000 per year.

The City Council’s Homelessness Task Force will select the certified nonprofits or churches that will receive the donations to be directed toward programming, including transportation, housing and job training services for the homeless.

The meters were painted by Detroit graffiti artist Antonio “Shades” Agee. As someone who spent most of his 20s living on the streets, the project really hits home, he told The Detroit News (https://detne.ws/1QG2xJe ).

The program will ensure the money goes where it needs to because “some people don’t know how to give,” he said.

Sheffield agrees that the program will have a big impact on the city’s homeless population.

“Some believe that the homeless are less than human. But homeless people are part of our community,” Sheffield said. “We have to embrace them and help them and encourage them.”

Similar efforts have been successful in other major U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., Denver and Indianapolis.

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Online:

https://www.detroitdonates.org

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Information from: The Detroit News, https://detnews.com/

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