Portland Considers Plan That Would Put Panhandlers to Work

PORTLAND, ME - JANUARY 9: Dana Burnell, a panhandler walking the median strip at the corne
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald/Getty

The City of Portland in Maine is considering a plan that would get panhandlers off street corners and put them to work.

Portland is planning on getting panhandlers off the streets by offering them jobs, WGME reported. “Their signs always say they want work usually, so it’s a good idea I think to give them some work,” Portland resident Richard Harris said.

“The city is considering a 36 week pilot program modeled after one in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” reports WGME.

The Albuquerque program used a $50,000 grant to provide shelter, resources, food, and jobs to those who panhandled within the city’s limits.

The program, called “There’s a Better Way,” has given out 932 jobs as of August 2016.

The Portland program is similar, offering people a day of work cleaning up the city’s parks or some other task involving light labor.

“We’re going to use a parks and rec van, have a social services member driving around to known intersections and her staff tend to know these folks, so we can say, ‘We’ve got this offer for you, you can work at minimum wage and we will feed you and get you water and pay you at the end of the day and link you to any services,’” Julie Sullivan, a senior adviser to the city manager, said.

The city plans to take up to five people a day for two days a week.

One homeless woman, when asked if she would consider taking a job cleaning the parks or some other task involving light labor, said she would take the job “in a heartbeat.”

“Jeeze-em [sic] crow, I’d take a job in a heartbeat. I sure would,” Terry Walters said.

The city says the stipends would be paid through grant money, much like the Albuquerque program.

Workers will receive their compensation through a prepaid debit card.

The city plans to present the program to the Health and Human Services Committee by the end of March and plans to start offering jobs as early as April.


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