Tags: portland | maine | panhandlers | jobs | proposal

Portland, Maine, Panhandlers Could Get Jobs Under Proposed Program

Image: Portland, Maine, Panhandlers Could Get Jobs Under Proposed Program

Portland, Maine, city hall. (Demerzel21/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Friday, 10 Mar 2017 05:48 AM

Portland, Maine, panhandlers could get jobs cleaning city parks and other light labor work if a proposal by its city manager passes that would dole out minimum wage gigs at $10.68 per hour.

The 36-week pilot program was inspired by a similar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, WGME-TV reported. The cleanup jobs would be offered daily to people on the street, city officials told the station.

"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 adviser to the city manager, told the television station.

Portland has an ordinance against aggressive panhandling, according to the Portland Press Herald. The city tried to ban panhandling in street medians in 2013 for safety issues, but the American Civil Liberties Union successfully sued in court where the law was deemed an infringement on free speech.

Portland business owners also have worried that panhandling could put a damper on tourism, while residents and visitors have complained about being approached for money on the sidewalks and at traffic lights, the Press Herald noted.

The Washington Post reported last August that the Albuquerque plan has moved more than 100 people to permanent employment while giving out 932 cleaning jobs. That helped the city clear 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds off 196 city blocks, in less than a year, the Post noted.

"You can just see the spiral they've been on to end up on the corner," Republican mayor Richard Berry told the Post. "Sometimes it takes a little catalyst in their lives to stop the downward spiral, to let them catch their breath, and it’s remarkable. They've had the dignity of work for a day; someone believed in them today."

Portland city manager Jon Jennings told the Press Herald that even though Albuquerque is much larger than Portland (545,852 residents to 67,000), he thinks Portland can replicate some of Albuquerque's success.

"We know there are still going to be people standing on street corners," Jennings told the Press Herald. "But we're trying to help people who feel they have to do that and give them hope for a positive future."

The Portland proposal is being fine-tuned and will go before the city council's Health and Human Services Committee on March 28.

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Portland, Maine, panhandlers could get jobs cleaning city parks and other light labor work if a proposal by its city manager passes that would dole out minimum wage gigs at $10.68 per hour.
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Friday, 10 Mar 2017 05:48 AM
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