Justice

Albuquerque Is Employing Homeless People With New Pilot Program

October 25th 2015

By:
Diana Crandall

Instead of being offered money, homeless people in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are being given the opportunity to find employment for a day.

A new pilot program called “There’s a Better Way” was launched earlier this year by both St. Martin’s Hospitality Center and the city of Albuquerque. The program sends a city van through Albuquerque on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to engage panhandlers and see if they are willing to work for the day, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

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Participants are eligible to earn $9 per hour working on various projects like city beautification, landfill work, and weed and litter control.

“If someone actually wants to work and they’re struggling, we’re going to try to give people an opportunity…we’re going to ask them if they want to come to work,” Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said at a news conference in September.

But Berry’s goal isn’t just short-term: he wants to offer services to the homeless that may help them in the long run to find stability—including mental health services, substance abuse help, and employment.

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“While we’re doing that, we’re going to engage them, and try to get them connected with services. So an individual may decide to come to work for that day,” Berry explained in the news conference. “And while they’re there, there’ll be people who will help counsel them. And at the end of the day, they’ll go back to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, and if they need shelter, we’ve automatically connected them. If they need help with substance abuse or mental health issues, we’re automatically connecting them to those services.”

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As ATTN: has previously reported, a multitude of socio-economic issues cause homelessness. This can include economic inequality, a lack of affordable housing, neighborhood gentrification, and mental illness, among other reasons.

Homelessness is also frequently treated as a criminal problem, as the video below illustrates. And for people who have a criminal record, it is more difficult to find gainful employment.

Upworthy reports that although Albuquerque’s program has only been operational for about a month, the city of Albuquerque is eager to expand the program to be five days a week, helping even more homeless people in the process.