“Make change count” donation program kicks off

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make change countSAN DIEGO — Those red devices that look like parking meters downtown beginning Monday are for making donations to help the homeless.

The Downtown San Diego Partnership launched its Make Change Count initiative, in which people can stick their spare change into the machines. The donation stations also accept credit cards.

Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said San Diegans can “donate with confidence” during the holiday season because the money will go straight to programs that benefit the homeless.

“You know that the spare change rattling in your pocket will be used to provide needed services for homeless individuals,” Gloria said at a news conference. “And if you don’t carry change, that’s even better, because we can take your credit card.”

Downtown San Diego Partnership President and CEO Kris Michell said the funds will pay for a program that provides travel to homeless people from other cities that have family willing to accept them. She said the proceeds also pay for first and last month’s rent and other necessities when they get into housing.

The programs have helped 650 people in downtown, she said.

“So, we’re asking people to make change count, please don’t give money directly to individuals, and put your money here,” Michell said.

The Make Change Count program is also designed to discourage panhandling.

Lt. Debra Farrar of the San Diego Police Department said well- intentioned people who give money directly to homeless people actually encourage “aggressive panhandling.”

The program is funded in part by donations from Cox Communications and IPS Group, a San Diego-based firm that makes solar-powered marking meters. The partnership is made up of businesses and residents who work to improve the downtown area.

Donations can also be made at participating restaurants and shops that display white Make Change Count cans, or online at http://www.downtownsandiego.org.

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