In President Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago, the website DNAinfo.com, has a map that shows the most lucrative panhandling spots in the Windy City.
But in Albuquerque, Republican Mayor Richard Barry had a better idea: Put panhandlers to work.
The idea is simple. The city pays workers $9 an hour, above minimum wage, and gives them lunch. At the end of each day, the would-be panhandlers are offered shelter for the night.
“You can just see the spiral they’ve been on to end up on the corner. Sometimes it takes a little catalyst in their lives to stop the downward spiral, to let them catch their breath, and it’s remarkable,” Berry said in an interview with the Washington Post. ”They’ve had the dignity of work for a day; someone believed in them today.”
As the city’s There’s a Better Way program gets ready to celebrate its first anniversary next month, its success is startling. More than 932 jobs have been given out, cleaning up more than 69,000 pounds of litter and weeds from more than 190 city blocks. About 100 participants have found permanent employment.
The program is operated in cooperation with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center and uses a van to troll for 10 workers each day. And while it hasn’t ended panhandling in the city, it has shown them there is real value to their lives.
“It’s helping hundreds of people,” Berry said, “and our city is more beautiful than ever.”
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