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Next time you're downtown and feel like helping a homeless person with a cardboard sign pleading for a little handout — don't do it.

Homeless advocates, including Pamela J. Atkinson, said Wednesday the same amount of money can help the homeless better if directed to service providers. Ten old-style parking meters painted bright red are stationed around downtown to take spare change and route it to homeless service providers through the Pamela J. Atkinson Foundation and the collaborative Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST).

The foundation charges no administrative fee and all the money goes into homeless programs, she said.

The foundation announced Wednesday that grants totalling $40,000 have been awarded to seven Salt Lake City service providers, including Volunteers of America, Catholic Community Services, Fourth Street Clinic, Valley Mental Health, The Road Home, the Salt Lake Rescue Mission and the Crossroads Urban Center.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank joined Atkinson and others to caution against giving to panhandlers. "That money goes in all kinds of different directions," he said referring to drugs and alcohol.

"HOST is a better avenue than giving money to those asking on the street," he said.

Donations also can be made to the Pamela J. Atkinson Foundation/HOST account at any Zions Bank location.