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‘It makes you human again’: Albuquerque’s remarkable outreach to the homeless

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 10/01/17

This is inspiring: the story of how one city is reaching out to help the homeless and panhandlers by meeting them where they are—on street corners, under bridges, in parks—and offering them city jobs that give them a little money and, more importantly, dignity. The PBS video above shows how it works.

Last year, Politicohad this profile:

Since the program began…more than 400 different panhandlers have taken the offer, and many have used it as a stepping stone to get permanent work, housing or treatment for mental health or substance abuse problems. It’s the brainchild of the city’s two-term Republican mayor, Richard J. Berry, who came up with the idea in the summer of 2015 after rolling down his window to talk to a man standing on a corner with a sign saying “Want a Job. Anything Helps.” Instead of ticketing panhandlers, Berry thought, why not try to literally bring jobs to them, right at the curb where they’re standing, and offer them services too while they’re at it? “I’m from Nebraska and my grandparents taught me about the dignity of work, and if you give that to them, they may be more likely to invest in themselves,” says Berry. “They’re much more likely to say ‘Somebody believed in me today’ and so much more likely to accept the services.” The van program has earned national media attention, and dozens of cities are looking into duplicating it, but it’s just one part of an array of interlocking initiatives that in just five years has turned the largest city in one of the nation’s poorest states into a national leader in the effort to address homelessness—a counterpoint to San Francisco, a wealthy city that’s spent large amounts to deal with a homelessness crisis with little to show for it . What makes Albuquerque’s holistic approach so attractive to other urban executives is how it marries liberal and conservative principles—no questions-asked charity and an old-fashioned work ethic. The city is putting the people most at risk of dying on the streets into homes straightaway, which has saved dozens of lives and has realized net savings to the taxpayer of more than $2 million a year.

Read more. 

And check out the PBS Newshour video above.

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