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Meters To Raise Funds For Homeless Helping Clean Up Downtown San Rafael

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) -- There are a lot of homeless people in San Rafael, and they're not always a welcome sight to the businesses that operate downtown, but now the city wants to use residents' loose change to help fund a solution.

"They see us on the streets. They appreciate us cleaning up," Sandra James said.

James is part of something called the Downtown Streets Team - a volunteer program that offers food assistance in exchange for 20 hours a week cleaning up the downtown area.  It's designed to mentally prepare the longtime unemployed to return to the workforce.

"We consider ourselves the dignity providers and helping people get back on their feet and not having to panhandle." Logan McDonnell, Project Manager of the Downtown Streets Team said.

Sandra says it gives her a sense of self-worth, and battles negative stereotypes created by the panhandlers and street hustlers.

"I used to hand money out here and there…but you just don't know what it's going for.  I don't really want to pay for cigarettes for people," Sandra said.

So, to support the Streets Team, the businesses are turning to a very street-like funding source - parking meters, or rather, donation meters.  Starting next week, 10 purple meters will be set up in key spots downtown.

The meters take coins or credit cards and 100 percent of the donation will go to support those on the Streets Team.

"We're going to put these 10 meters downtown, give people an alternate way to give, and give the panhandlers an alternative by joining our program and getting their basic needs covered throughout the year," Logan said.

The money raised will be icing on the cake, because each meter comes with a $6,000 sponsorship from a downtown business.

The Streets Team says they don't want people to stop helping the homeless - they just believe there's dignity in doing something to earn it.

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