SIERRA VISTA — Better Bucks have hit the streets of Sierra Vista.
The program, aimed at assisting the homeless and persons in need with vouchers that enable them to purchase essential items at certain stores, is finally in Sierra Vista after more than a year in the making.
“It’s been a long process,” said Sierra Vista Police spokesman Corporal Scott Borgstadt, who was instrumental in launching the program here. “It was delayed a little bit because of COVID. Our board of directors is extremely motivated and excited for this program.
“When I’ve gone and talked to other groups in Sierra Vista, it’s always been positive and they’re excited about the program coming through,” Borgstadt added.
There has been so much excitement and anticipation about kicking off the program in the city that last weekend, Better Bucks of Sierra Vista, the non-profit that runs the program, sold all of its voucher booklets at Art in the Park, Borgstadt said.
“We weren’t expecting such a response, it was amazing,” Borgstadt said. “It was 238 booklets. People told us that the only reason they had come out to Art in the Park was to buy the booklets.”
The goal of the Better Bucks program is to give homeless and needy individuals and families vouchers for essential items, rather than give them money that could be used to buy drugs or booze, Borgstadt said. The Better Bucks vouchers come in booklets of five, each one for $1. The public may purchase the voucher booklets for $6. The extra dollar goes toward printing the booklets and other administrative costs.
The vouchers will include information on community services and organizations that provide assistance to the homeless and persons in need. Some of the organizations listed include Lori’s Place, Good Neighbor Alliance, The Salvation Army, Warrior Healing Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Arizona@Work and Goodwill Job Connections.
A one-day bus pass also will be included in the voucher booklet, as will an additional coupon for the city’s animal shelter, Borgstadt said. The voucher for the Nancy J. Brua Animal Care Center will provide assistance with pet food, vaccinations, spay and neuter services, microchipping, veterinary exam and pet supplies. The individual presenting the voucher must be able to show that he or she is in need of the assistance for their animal, Borgstadt said.
Aside from the animal shelter coupon, the businesses participating in the program include, Fry’s, Food City, Culver’s, Friends of the Sierra Vista Library — people can buy books with their vouchers — and Goodwill of Southern Arizona.
Individuals may spend up to $20 per visit at any of the businesses, Borgstadt said. They can buy food, toiletries, clothing and pet food. They’re prohibited from purchasing alcohol, tobacco or money orders.
Additionally, anyone purchasing goods with a Better Buck will not receive change. That way people are not given back cash that could be used to buy drugs or booze, Borgstadt said.
The businesses would be reimbursed with cash by better Bucks of Sierra Vista once they provide the receipts.
Borgstadt said Tuesday that Fry’s and Food City have already had customers buying items with Better Bucks since the program took off on Oct. 1.
The local program was inspired by the one in Flagstaff created by local police and the Shadows Foundation in 2016. Shadows, a nonprofit, has been working with the Better Bucks board here to help get the effort off the ground, Borgstadt said.
Shadows Foundation president Vicki Burton was in Sierra Vista last week just before Better Bucks made its debut. She and Borgstadt met with participating merchants to iron out any last minute concerns or questions. The pair also hit the street so they could inform homeless individuals that Better Bucks was about to take off.
“I’m so excited, it’s a very successful program,” Burton said. “We’ve (Flagstaff) actually paid out $27,000 to our merchants and when you think about it that’s $27,000 you keep off the streets and in the hands of our merchants.
“The good thing about this is that it’s finally happening,” Burton said.
Better Bucks booklets may be purchased by the community at the Sierra Vista Police Department, Sierra Vista City Hall and the city’s public library.
There are also a few churches in the area that have expressed an interest in passing out Better Bucks booklets to their parishioners, Borgstadt said.
Donations to the non-profit also may be made at betterbucksofsierravista.org, Borgstadt said.