Instead Of Arresting Panhandlers, Albuquerque's Giving Them Jobs

Five people have found full-time employment since the program started in September.
Kevin Russ via Getty Images

Albuquerque officials are working to reform their policies of mistreating and at times, outright persecuting, homeless people by offering jobs to people on the streets.

After a series of incidents of police brutality, which included the fatal shooting of a schizophrenic homeless man this year, advocates and the Justice Department demanded that the Albuquerque Police Department overhaul its approach to how it treats homeless people and people with mental illness, The New York Times reported. And part of that reform includes a program that scouts homeless people and offers them jobs.

The city, together with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, an organization that provides services to homeless people, dispenses outreach workers who offer odd jobs -- which have the potential of turning into full-time opportunities -- to people on the streets, according to KOAT.

The jobs, which include picking up trash and pulling weeds, were originally being done by the City of Albuquerque Solid Waste Department, according to the Blaze. But now those workers are free to tackle other tasks.

Using a $50,000 grant, the workers are paid $9 an hour and aren’t taxed until they they’ve earned $600.

The program picks up 10 panhandlers twice a week to work, and in order to get paid, they must put in about five to six hours of labor, according to The Times.

It hopes to expand to five days a week, according to the Blaze.

Supporters of the program say it’s an improvement over other safety net programs that often just offer work opportunities that have no growth potential. Five people have found full-time employment since the program started in September, according to The Times.

While some are concerned that homeless people will be dissuaded from participating since they can often earn more money panhandling, participants say the program is offering them so much more than just cash.

“I got to put some money in my pocket. I helped clean up the community,” Jessica Salazar, a participant, told PBS, “and it's a good feeling.”

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