One Year Later, Mayor's Idea for Homeless Shows Promise
'There's a better way' puts Albuquerque's panhandlers to work
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2016 4:55 PM CDT
Updated Aug 21, 2016 9:48 AM CDT
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry curbed panhandling by bringing jobs to the homeless.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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(Newser) – An Albuquerque program that hires the homeless to beautify the city is being hailed as a success on its first birthday, the Washington Post reports. Republican Mayor Richard Berry said he launched the effort after spotting a man holding a sign on the street: “Want a Job. Anything Helps.” Instead of telling the homeless to get jobs, Berry figured, why not bring the jobs to them? And so began “There’s a Better Way,” which pays the poor $9 an hour to clean up the streets. ”They’ve had the dignity of work for a day,” Berry said. “Someone believed in them today.” It’s not illegal to beg for money in Albuquerque, the Blaze reported in an earlier look at the program, and the Post notes that's a departure from a national trend to criminalize panhandling.

One recent report found that 24% of cities have banned panhandling altogether and 76% forbid it in certain areas. Still, the practice is considered a safety issue, and Berry, the city's first Republican mayor in 30 years, said he began talking to the homeless about what to do about it. The city launched the program last September with a $50,000 grant to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, according to the Blaze. A van recruits about 10 workers each day but could easily take more. So far, the program has doled out 932 jobs and cleared 69,601 pounds of weeds and garbage. And 100 people have found permanent jobs through the program. “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 tells the Post.