WASHINGTON — Jeffrey Carter, who is homeless, clutched two gold-colored coins in his palm as he approached the Mission Muffins cafe trailer in Northwest Washington to exchange them for a breakfast burrito and apple juice.
The quarter-size coins — each worth $2.20 and inscribed with part of the Lord’s Prayer and an image of wheat — are “Breadcoins,” a new form of currency in the District of Columbia intended for people in need.
Inspired by the recent popularity of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, Breadcoins have circulated in the District since 2016, but they are still relatively unknown. They are another option for people who worry that giving money to those in need might be used to fuel an addiction.
“People don’t want to give to people who drink alcohol and use drugs,” Carter, 56, said last week as he waited for his food. “It’s a new way to give.”
Carter got his Breadcoins at the Central Union Mission, where he has been living since August when he relocated from Connecticut.
The shelter serves meals, but using Breadcoins at Mission Muffins gives him more options and allows him to feel like a paying customer.
Mission Muffins, which is next to the shelter, is a workforce development program in the NoMa neighborhood.
A major way Breadcoins are distributed is through Central Union Mission, which distributes the coins to residents who take their workforce development classes.
Breadcoin’s co-founder, Scott Borger, also often distributes the coins to people when he volunteers at the shelter each week.