ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city is taking a new approach to getting Albuquerque’s homeless off the streets, grabbing your attention at the dinner table. Since the One Albuquerque Housing Fund kicked off earlier this year, the city has used billboards, street signs and t-shirt funds to bring in money. Now, they’re using something you find in most bars and restaurants — and it’s coming at no cost to the taxpayers.

While waiting for food at a local restaurant, Carlos Contreras noticed the items right in front of him. That’s when the idea just clicked.

“It really just started as an idea, sitting at a restaurant,” said Contreras, Director of Marketing and Innovation for the City of Albuquerque. “I, personally, was sitting at a restaurant, flipping a coaster and looking at a table tent and thinking about how we spread the word of the housing fund. It was sort of a light bulb moment, to be honest. Sitting at restaurants, waiting for food, or conversing at restaurants and the time you spend there is spent with all of these things in front of you on the table.”

The coasters are just one way to spread the city’s message of helping the homeless in Albuquerque. Right now, many can spot the billboards and signs at intersections while driving, but he says this makes it personal, putting the cause right in front of you.

“I thought if we could put that image and quick access to the housing fund in front of people, we might just have a bigger impact,” said Contreras. “It’s in a person’s hand, so to speak, and there’s a QR code directly on the coaster, and so many of us carry around smartphones these days, and your camera on your smartphone will act as a scanner or reader for that QR code to send you directly to the donation site.”

The coasters are the result of time and materials donated by Ambitions Document Solutions and JohnnyBoards Indoor Advertising, coming at no cost to the taxpayers. The owner of JohnnyBoards says the project was a perfect fit for them.

“JohnnyBoards does a lot of public service work, so this was just a natural fit for us,” said Ruben Garcia, owner of JohnnyBoards. “We’re in breweries and coffee shops, so it was a natural fit for us to be able to participate in the coaster drops for them.”

Anyone can donate by scanning the coaster’s QR code with their smartphone, taking them directly to the housing fund’s donation site. The city says they’re hoping it’ll bring a big change to help the homeless in Albuquerque.

“We’re aiming to help the people in our city who need it most. Housing is key, like the signs say, and all things point to when people are housed, the ability to sustain life in a better manner is just that much more possible,” said Contreras. “Housing vouchers pay for 70 percent of somebody’s housing needs and costs, I should say, so 30 percent of that is still picked up by the person who applies and qualifies for the housing fund and housing vouchers, but it’s a way of us getting people into housing.”

Right now, 10,000 coasters are going into distribution across town. Contreras is hoping for a positive response.

“Ideally, we see people meet it with kindness in their hearts and with the ability to donate,” said Contreras. “We’re just excited to be embraced by multiple folks who see the need in Albuquerque right now, and see the hope and possibility in the City of Albuquerque.”

He says the city hopes to also add folded table tents with the QR code to area businesses in the near future. So far, the housing fund has raised more than $16,000 to get local homeless into housing.