To effectively clean up its homeless camps, Anchorage, Alaska, may look to its homeless residents.
Due to a lack of resources, Anchorage has a “backlog” of homeless camps that need to be cleaned, according to the municipality of Anchorage. To speed up the process, and give homeless people a decent income, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz proposed hiring homeless people to get the job done, Alaska Dispatch News reported.
Through a $75,000 contract, Alaska WorkSource will recruit panhandlers, homeless camp residents and others for the jobs. They’ll get paid minimum wages and will also be connected to substance abuse treatment or job training programs.
Their earnings would only be taxed after they make $600.
Alaska WorkSource is a local nonprofit that provides vocational training, job skills, case management and other services to people who have been incarcerated, homeless and have addiction issues.
The proposal comes at a time when Anchorage is struggling to provide sufficient resources to its homeless population.
On a single night in January last year, there were 1,105 homeless people in Anchorage, according to the city’s annual count.
Anchorage is also facing mounting pressure as problems arise at various homeless camps.
Last October, David Tandler, a homeless man living in a camp in East Anchorage, killed a black bear with a homemade spear. Tandler was fined for “negligent feeding of wildlife,” but his response was considered lawful, KTUU reported.
Berkowitz said the job program was inspired by an initiative in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that aims to approach homelessness with compassion, instead of criminalization.
The program picks up panhandlers at various spots throughout the city and takes them to areas that need sprucing up, The New York Times reported last year. It's funded by the city and crowdfunding efforts, Rhiannon Samuel, director of communications for Mayor Richard Berry's office, told HuffPost.
Twice a week they work at vacant lots, abandoned parks and other neglected places. They earn $9 and get free lunch.
“I worked for my money,” Ramona Beletso, a homeless woman involved in the program, told The Times. “And that feels good.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that the Albuquerque program is funded via the James Boyd Foundation. It is funded in part through crowdfunding and the city.