Albuquerque program pays panhandlers to pull weeds, pick up trash

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque has put aside nearly $50,000 to help get panhandlers off street corners and onto the work grind.

Every Tuesday and Thursday the city will have a van pick up any panhandler willing to do trash and weed patrol for cash. The city is working with St. Martin’s to coordinate the program.

The program is the second phase of the city’s “There’s a Better Way” campaign, that began in May. The first phase of the campaign asked drivers to donate money to shelters instead of putting it directly into the hands of the homeless. It didn’t fare too well, raising only $1,680 in four months.

Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montano, said the city has been working to address the issue of panhandling within the city.

“It’s all about opportunity,” Montano said. “It’s a testament that not everyone out there is just begging for money. This creates some confidence and some cash in their pocket.”

The city agreed to pay panhandlers $9 an hour and they’re working five to six hours a day.

“We didn’t know how to gauge the success of this project,” Montano said. “We thought maybe there would be no one or 10, we didn’t know what the number was going to be.”

The city said the van drove along I-25 looking for panhandlers. They offered 14 people the opportunity to work, seven said yes.

“It’s a little different than my normal day, but it’s worth it,” Alex Scott said.  “As long as I’m helping out a community.”

Other panhandlers KRQE News 13 spoke with said they would be on the lookout for the van in the weeks to come.

“The way that I look at it, it’s a step in a door and in the right direction,” one man said.

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