Portland considers offering jobs to panhandlers

PORTLAND, Maine (WGME) -- The City of Portland is considering a plan that would get panhandlers off street corners and medians in exchange for work.

“You come to a stop sign or an intersection and you're hoping it gets green or something like that just so you don't have to get stuck there and have them looking at you and stuff wondering if you have change,” Richard Harris, Portland resident, said.

Portland may now have a solution to get panhandlers off the streets by offering them jobs around town.

“Their signs always say they want work usually, so it's a good idea I think to give them some work,” Harris said.

The city is considering a 36 week pilot program modeled after one in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It would offer people standing on the streets asking for money a day of work cleaning up the city's parks or other light labor work.

“We're going to use a parks and rec van, have a social services member driving around to known intersections and her staff tend to know these folks, so we can say, ‘We've got this offer for you, you can work at minimum wage and we will feed you and get you water and pay you at the end of the day and link you to any services,’” Julie Sullivan, senior advisor to city manager, said.

The city says they'd take five people a day for two days a week.

CBS 13 asked a woman asking for money on the corner of Park Avenue and State Street if she'd take the job.

“Would you take a job if it was offered to you to clean up the parks or do something with light labor?” CBS 13 Lexie O’Connor asked.

Yes. I sure would,” Terry Walters, homeless, said.

Walters says she usually makes around $15 a day.

After hearing the jobs would offer the city's minimum wage of $10.68 an hour, Walters says she’s ready to sign up.

“Jeeze-em [sic] crow, I'd take a job in a heartbeat. I sure would,” Walters said.

The city says the stipends would be completely paid for through grant money. The workers will be paid with a pre-paid debit card.

They plan to present the program to the Health and Human Services Committee at the end of the month and start offering jobs as early as April.

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