The city of Portland, Maine, is developing a program that would offer jobs to panhandlers, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The Press Herald reports that the 36-week pilot program, modeled after a similar one in Albuquerque, N.M., would pay $10.68 an hour to those willing and able to work cleaning up parks or performing similar labor for the city. A city social worker would drive a van around the city offering the day jobs to panhandlers and would transport them to their work sites. Participants would be paid for their work at the end of each day.
According to a draft proposal, the city would hire the first five people willing to work. The program would take place two days a week and participants would also be fed breakfast and lunch. At the end of their workday, when taken to the city’s Social Services Division to receive their payment, they will be provided with opportunities for job training and other resources.
Portland City Manager Jon Jennings told the Herald that he hopes the city’s program will see success similar to that of Albuquerque’s program even though Albuquerque is a much larger city.
“We know there are still going to be people standing on street corners,” Jennings said. “But we’re trying to help people who feel they have to do that and give them hope for a positive future.”
City Councilor Belinda Ray said Portland doesn’t just want to reduce panhandling, they want to connect people with the social services and resources that they need.
“We want to make sure people have opportunities in the city and they aren’t relegated to panhandling as their only way to make ends meet,” Ray said. “It’s an exciting idea to think we might be able to do something, but I need to see the details before I weigh in.”
Dana Burnell, who has panhandled in the city, told the Herald he’d prefer to be working.
“I’ve always been a working man,” he said. “I write ‘work’ on my sign and get few offers.”
“I would definitely hop in the van,” he added. “I would much rather be working than be out here getting hollered at.”