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Albuquerque tackles homelessness with city jobs, free lunch

The U.S. city of Albuquerque has begun offering homeless people $9-an-hour jobs beautifying the city. (city of Albuquerque photo)

Richard Berry, mayor of the U. S. city of Albuquerque, has a simple recipe for ending homelessness: part-time jobs and a vast support network. Kathleen McCreery reports for PBS Newshour that twice a week a city-run van canvasses neighborhoods searching for panhandlers willing to pull weeds and pick up trash. The jobs pay $9 an hour, $1.50 above minimum wage, and include free lunch.

The program has prompted inquiries from the mayors of 37 cities, including Seattle and Pittsburgh, the article says. St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, a nonprofit organization, runs the initiative in partnership with the city. The center offers a range of services that include laundry, showers, long-term storage and mental health treatment. It also serves up to 500 meals daily. The city contributes the vans and wages for drivers and workers, McCreery reports.

Another partner, Heading Home, helps the city’s most downtrodden find temporary beds and permanent housing. “Instead of being punitive and giving somebody a ticket for standing on the corner to panhandle, why don’t we give them a better opportunity?” the mayor tells PBS. Some participants return each week for assignments that last five hours a day.

PBS Newshour

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