Donate to help homeless through old parking meters

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SALT LAKE CITY -- "Wanting to help people is the right thing to do but you should do it in the right way,” said Jason Mathis, Executive Director of Downtown Alliance.

Instead of giving cash to panhandlers, Salt Lake City residents are encouraged to feed meters.

Since 2011, 13 old parking meters in Salt Lake City have been transformed into Red HOST meters and used to raise money for local homeless service providers.

"That money goes directly to the centers and the agencies that serve the homeless. That's when they get the caring, the loving, the reaching out and that's where the difference in people's lives is continued," said community advocate Pamela Atkinson.

Those who run the program hope to get more meters, not only in Salt Lake City but across the Wasatch Front.

"If that money is going to the right location and the right service providers then those individuals truly in need are the ones getting it and you’re not giving it to people who are lying," said Chris Burbank, chief for Salt Lake City Police Department.

Because of parking changes in downtown over the past year, the city now has 2,000 meters available to convert into donation spots, said Jason Mathis, executive director for the Downtown Alliance.

"No one ever panhandled their way out of homelessness and there may be some cases where you are really helping someone it`s just so hard to know,” Mathis said.

Posters will also be handed out to local businesses, encouraging people to help in the right way.

“What we see is on an individual basis, we change people’s lives. We take them out of the situation they are in, give them some hope for the future and turn their lives around. They have 300 to 400 incidents with police and then they have none -- and one by one we will change the world," Burbank said.

For a local business to have a red HOST meter they have to make a $1,500 donation -- all of which will go to help the homeless.