City Of Tulsa Launches 'A Better Way' To Stop Panhandling

Wednesday, March 7th 2018, 6:50 am
By: Amy Slanchik

The City of Tulsa is teaming up with the United Way and the Mental Health Association to reduce panhandling. 

A new program starting this week will give Tulsa's homeless an opportunity to earn money. It starts with a team driving around in a van looking for people who want to work.

It's called "A Better Way," and it's about giving panhandlers an opportunity to earn cash instead of begging for it.

Three days a week, anyone picked up in the van will clean up city parks and earn $65 after their workday is done.

Everyone will also get lunch.

The idea is modeled after a program in New Mexico.

Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum says the program addresses two issues in Tulsa. One is the number of panhandlers in the city. He says the city has tried several ways to fix that problem, but they've never worked.

4/27/2017 Related Story: 'A Better Way' Program Looks To Stop Panhandling, Beautify Tulsa

And two, cleaning up the city.  Mayor Bynum says this program will allow former panhandlers to get a job by picking up trash around the city.  He says panhandlers will also get access to social services, with the hope of getting them off the street and back on their feet.

"To be a leader nationally - not trying to catch onto the, you know, be the 401st city that's doing something but rather be one of the first dozen cities in the nation that's testing something out, living up to our reputation as a beta city," Bynum said at downtown a news conference.

Alex Aguilar with the Mental Health Association expects the program to make a real difference.

"This is not the end all, be all solution to panhandling or homelessness, and we kind of use those terms interchangeably, but it is one solution. It is a better way. And there are people who we know of who want to work," Aguilar said.

You'll start seeing the van driving around Tulsa streets starting Friday.