Albuquerque Mayor’s Idea to Help Homeless Seems to be Working

Work Program Gives Homeless People Dignity and Hope

Throughout his term in office, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, has taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents have told him they don’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they don’t know where else to go. This gave Berry an idea. Instead of asking them to go out looking for work, the city could bring the work to them.

Next month will be the first anniversary of Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program, which hires panhandlers for day jobs beautifying the city, reports The Washington Post. A van is dispatched around the city to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working. The job pays $9 an hour and provides a lunch. At the end of the shift, participants are offered overnight shelter as needed.

In less than a year since its start, the program has given out 932 jobs clearing 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks. And more than 100 people have been connected to permanent employment.

The van employs about 10 workers a day, but could take more. When the van fills, people have begged to get a spot next time. That’s why the city has increased funding for the program to expand it from two to four days a week. Dozens of cities around the country have already reached out to Berry wanting to copy the program.

The program hasn’t eliminated all panhandling in the city, and supporters say that’s not really the point. It’s connecting people who would otherwise not seek help to services they need. And it’s showing them when they are at their lowest that they have real value, and that others are willing to show them kindness to help them have a better life.