You might assume all of the change placed into downtown Pensacola parking meters goes back to the city or local government. But starting this month, the money that is inserted into certain meters is actually going to another cause.
In downtown Pensacola, dozens of brightly-colored meters are popping up along downtown area parks and streets, with all of the change raised from the meters going to a local homeless advocacy nonprofit, EscaRosa Coalition on the Homeless (ECOH).
The project is the brainchild of the Greater Pensacola Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Pensacola (LeaP) Class of 2016. The class will unveil the meters as part of this year’s project. Last year, LeaP funded new wayfinding displays within downtown Pensacola.
The project, entitled A Better Way to Give, is aimed at improving the lives of the homeless on the Gulf Coast. The ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling the meters will be held on Wednesday, May 11 at Plaza de Luna in downtown Pensacola. The unveiling will feature information about the class project, a preview of the painted meters to be installed, guest speakers and local dignitaries.
Inspired by similar programs around the country, the project recycles obsolete parking meters — which are then painted by local artists — to provide an alternative to giving directly to homeless living on the streets. The meters, according to the LeaP class, are designed to raise awareness about the homeless population in the city and create a coordinated funding mechanism for agencies addressing these challenges.
Dozens of cities across the country have launched similar initiatives. While the meters have mixed results in other cities, supporters say the money goes to organizations like the ECOH or local homeless groups that know how to effectively use the funds for food, support and shelter.
The LeaP class has worked with local churches, nonprofit organizations and government entities to create a network of help for the homeless and education tools for the community, according to the Greater Pensacola Chamber.
The Downtown Improvement Board donated the meters to the project, and ECOH will collect and manage the money raised.
The first meter will be unveiled this week, followed by the installation of 38 more throughout the month of May along Palafox Street and Main Street.
Donations to help the homeless can be made by depositing spare change into the meters downtown or giving through the online portal at BetterWayPensacola.org.