Giving panhandlers a day's work is proving to be a win-win situation.
In May 2015, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry decided to help panhandlers looking for an honest day's work earn a little money.
The program was created after Berry noticed panhandlers around the city were being fined, which clearly wasn't helping them or the city because they couldn't pay their fines. Instead of financially penalizing them, the There's A Better Way program has vans that drive around the city looking for panhandlers and offering them a day's work helping to beautify the community.
The city provides transportation to and from the gig, a meal, and cash at the end of the day.
Fast forward 14 months, and the program has expanded from two to four days a week, the pay is above New Mexico's minimum wage at $9 an hour, there are 37 signs (up from 15) letting panhandlers know they can get work throughout the city, and it's getting people the right resources to go from this day job to more stable employment.
Berry's office is happy to report it has received over 9,000 calls from people interested in the program since it began. As a result of There's a Better Way, the city has been able to help 728 people — 34 of which have found permanent employment.
"I am thrilled that the community in Albuquerque has had such a positive response to this program. Nationally, we are seeing people adopt our program and make it their own to help their citizens," Berry said.