Albuquerque Gives Panhandlers Day Jobs, Not Tickets

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Rusty said the city's new campaign correctly recognizes that "you cannot legislate people off the corner." Citations and jail time are disruptive events that only increase the likelihood that people will have to rely on panhandling for income, he said.

So how could the city discourage panhandling without resorting to penalties that only make the problem worse?

"We wanted to try and create an initiative that would be a little out of the box," Berry said. "Instead of taking the punitive approach and the regulatory approach, why not try something that uplifts everybody?"

Most of the online donors are giving more than what they would give to panhandlers at an intersection. (AP/Jon Hayt) 

Instead of giving citations to homeless people for panhandling, Albuquerque is giving them money for their work, and this new initiative is helping. (via Mayor Richard J. Berry)

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Albuquerque is not the only city to advise its residents against giving money to panhandlers. Some jurisdictions, such as Denver, have retrofitted parking meters to collect donations for homeless services. What's different about the Albuquerque campaign is the offer of temporary jobs, said Eric Tars, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "It is demeaning to have to beg for money," Tars said. The day jobs provide income and build up a person's self esteem, he added.

Since May, the campaign has raised about $2,700 in charitable donations, according to Randy Woodcock, the executive director of the United Way of Central New Mexico. Woodcock acknowledges that it's "not a tremendous amount of money," but he thinks that the donation website increases overall giving to homeless services. Most of the online donors are giving $20 a time -- more than what they would give at an intersection -- and they are setting up credit card accounts with continuous donations every month.

For Cole, the proof of impact is in the small details. One man Cole hired came back the next week to show off a new phone he was able to purchase with his earnings. A few have used to money to take a bus back home to cities in other parts of the state. He was careful not to oversell the campaign as a way to end homelessness.

"It might slowly jump-start them to get back into regular employment," Cole said. "I'm hoping that is what it does."

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