This mayor saw a homeless man with a 'Will work' sign. It gave him a great idea.

The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, used to ticket people for panhandling. Now they're trying something new — something that's got a lot of locals excited.

Participants in Albuquerque's "There's a Better Way" initiative working on a city beautification project. All photos provided by the city of Albuquerque, used with permission.


Two days a week, an employee of a local homeless services organization drives a van around the city and asks homeless people if they want to work for the day.

"If they say yes, they hop in the van. We've already got a lunch for them, ready to go," Will Cole, the van driver, told Upworthy.

The idea was hatched by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, who saw it as a way to help, not punish, people in need.

"I was driving one day ... and I see a gentleman standing there with a sign that says: 'Will work,'" Berry told Upworthy. "So we decided to take the program to the next level."

The program, called "There's a Better Way," was started by Berry's administration to connect homeless people with employment, substance abuse, mental health, and housing services, and it recently expanded to include a program to connect homeless residents with jobs for the day.

"As a mayor, you want to be effective, and you want to do it in a way that's compassionate. And you also want to do it in a way that really maybe helps people get out of the circumstances that they're in," Berry said.

Those who say "yes" to the job offer work five-and-a-half hour shifts for $9/hour.

"We want to give the dignity of work for a day," Berry said. "The dignity of a day's work for a day's pay is a very good thing. It helps people stabilize, it helps them with their self-confidence, and it helps them get back on their feet."

The work often includes pulling weeds, picking up trash, or engaging in other beautification projects around the city. According to Mayor Berry, out of every 12-14 people Cole asks, 10 say yes to the gig.

At the end of their day, Cole's van drops the workers off at St. Martin's Hospitality Center where they have access to food, shelter, and other services if they choose.

"This could be anyone of us," Vicky Palmer, Associate Executive Director of St. Martin's, told Upworthy. "There are so many people who are a paycheck away, and to stigmatize somebody because they're homeless without even knowing the reason why, that's why we're in the business we're in."

Since the program began last year, it has been so successful that Berry just announced it is expanding.

It will increase operations from two days a week to four, with an additional $181,000 in its budget.

Berry credits the community for supporting "There's a Better Way," not only through donations but through taking initiative and reaching out. Since the city linked its homeless services to its 311 help line, over 7,200 people have called 311 offering help or asking to be helped. The equivalent of 128 city blocks have been cleaned of nearly 50,000 pounds of weeds and trash.

The city's new 311 sign, urging homeless residents to seek help and community members to reach out.

According to Palmer, one of the biggest successes of the program has been humanizing a group of people who often don't get a fair shake.

"It's frustrating when you're sitting in your car and somebody's trying to get money from you, but they're human beings," Palmer said. "It's really hard for us to take that stance because that could be my mother. It could be my brother."

"I think we have to have that compassion and approach so that we can end homelessness."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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