Mayor Karl Dean today announced the launch of the Adopt A Meter program in Nashville, an innovative awareness campaign that places specially marked refurbished parking meters throughout the city where people can deposit change and dollar bills that will benefit the city’s homeless outreach efforts.
The program is being coordinated by the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission with assistance from Public Works. The Homelessness Commission is seeking private donations to cover the cost of the signage and the program startup. Sponsoring businesses will have their logo displayed on a meter.
“Homelessness is not a government issue. It is not a nonprofit issue. Homelessness is a community issue,” Dean said. “The Adopt A Meter program is a way for citizens to channel funding directly toward the outreach efforts that benefit homeless individuals and families in our city.”
The City of Denver implemented a similar meter program in 2007 and now has 86 meters displayed that generate more than $100,000 annually. The meters have effectively educated the public about the need to support the city’s solutions to end homelessness and have reduced the occurrence of panhandling downtown.
Howard Gentry, CEO of the Nashville Chamber Public Benefit Foundation and a member of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, said Mayor Karl Dean approached the Commission after a Chamber-sponsored leadership trip to Denver last spring.
“Several business leaders expressed their interest in getting involved in homelessness initiatives after they saw Denver’s programs,” Gentry said. “The Adopt A Meter program is a great way to start because it is financed through sponsorships from local businesses.”
Donations deposited in the meters will benefit the city’s homeless outreach programs. This fundraising strategy will be coordinated by the Key Alliance, an initiative of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission that brings together nonprofit, faith-based, government, and for-profit organizations to create more low-income housing opportunities for the homeless.
“Nashville currently has six full-time outreach workers assisting the roughly 4,000 individuals and families who are homeless on any given night,” Clifton Harris, director of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission, said. “Street outreach workers are essential to building relationships with homeless individuals and families, and connecting them to services that remove barriers to housing.”
Harris explained that Housing First, which is permanent housing coupled with intensive case management, is the solution to homelessness. “However, without the outreach programs needed we are unable to reach the most vulnerable individuals and families in our midst,” Harris said. “Through the Adopt A Meter program the entire Nashville community will be able to help us move toward our goal of ending chronic homelessness and reducing overall homelessness in Nashville.”
Meters in Nashville will be placed in prominent city locations that have a high volume of pedestrian traffic. The Key Alliance is working closely with Public Works to designate the sites. Public Works has donated 30 meters to start the program. The meters will be installed as the Homelessness Commission receives sponsorships for them.
Mayor Dean announced the program and called for area businesses to participate during the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville’s inaugural Bowtie Awards ceremony today, where businesses were honored for their support of the arts. Several hundred business people attended the awards luncheon. The first meter sponsored by Southwest Airlines was on display to demonstrate the sponsorship opportunities for businesses.
“We are excited to be working with The Key Alliance on a special arts element for the Adopt a Meter program,” said Connie Valentine, CEO of the Arts & Business Council. “The adopting companies will eventually have opportunity to sculpt or display art on or around their adopted meter – creating a powerful combination of arts and business in support of this important initiative.”