Change to create change

Dec 112008
Authors: Scott Callahan

Hundreds of students and Fort Collins drivers pump coins into parking meters daily, a process that four CSU students hope to utilize to help give back to the Fort Collins homeless community.

Created by seniors Sarah Wells, Krishae Vinson, Kelsie Borland and Andrea Johnson, the project Common Cents will allow students and the Fort Collins community to give back via spare change deposited into parking meters on campus and around Fort Collins.

“We wanted to do something to help homelessness,” Johnson said. “But we wanted to be more creative than donating food.”

Originally a class assignment to make a positive change on the community, the four collaborated with UniverCity, a Fort Collins, volunteer-driven initiative focused on creating positive change in the community, to initiate the project.

Doug Johnson, director of UniverCity, said, “Everybody has a role to play. That is why the parking meter project is so appealing because everybody drives, everybody parks and it’s an opportunity for everyone to participate in the solution.”

The group plans to place mock parking meters in every parking lot on the CSU campus and eventually have meters in Old Town and across Fort Collins.

“(UniverCity) mindsets are to be abolitionists, we want to abolish this issue because it is unacceptable,” Johnson said.

The meters will accept coin donations, all of which will go to the efforts to prevent homelessness.

“We want to initiate a prevention of homelessness instead of helping those who are already homeless,” Borland said.

The project draws inspiration from a Denver based parking meter project, which in the first two years has seen an 11 percent reduction in overall homelessness and helped nearly 2,000 homeless people access public assistance.

Long-term goals for the operation include providing permanent housing, employment training and public safety for homeless and near homeless people.

CSU will be the first college campus of about 300 projects across the country to adopt this plan and put it into action.

Although Common Cents is just one of many Fort Collins projects to prevent homelessness, the project has attracted the attention of Interagency Council on Homelessness, a government agency helping communities across the country in a mutual goal to end homelessness, which could lead to federal and state grants.

Despite planning and research, Borland said she believes community support and effort will be needed to pull together for a common goal of ending homelessness.

“It is important that we, as a community, realize homelessness is a problem,” Borland said. “We want our goal to contribute to the prevention efforts of homelessness.”

Staff writer Scott Callahan can be reached at

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