Tulsa Program Hopes To Help Panhandlers, Homeless

Wednesday, April 18th 2018, 9:49 pm
By: Justin Shrair

Tulsa's "A Better Way" program is now more than a month old. It gives panhandlers a way to earn money instead of begging for it by putting them to work cleaning up the city.

Those who complete each workday are paid $65 and given resources to help get them back on their feet. 

"We had a crew of about 4 or five people, and we've steadily increased to about a maximum size crew of eight people a day, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday," said Alex Aguilar with the Mental Health Association.  
The program works by picking up people who are homeless or who panhandle and putting them to work cleaning up Tulsa and city parks. 

3/9/2018 Related Story: Tulsa's 'A Better Way' Kicks Off Friday

Mayor Bynum introduced the program that's based off a similar one in New Mexico.

"The goal of the program is to provide a launch pad for someone to get some cash in their pocket get a step ahead and whenever they're needing bus tokens, interview clothes," said Aguilar. 
At the end of the day, those workers have an opportunity to access resources such as employment services and other social services with the goal of helping them become self-sustaining. 

Mayor Bynum said the challenge right now is finding enough spots for the number of people who want to take part.
"The true test of this is to look at it after a year and to see the folks that are being helped today and to see where they are a year from now," said Mayor Bynum.  
The mayor said so far, "A Better Way" is getting positive reviews. Aguilar agrees and said seeing the program's impact first hand has been eye-opening. 
"To be able to have them say ‘hey, I want to follow up with you and what jobs do you have for me, where can I get to work.’ That's been really gratifying to hear people really interested in doing better for themselves," Aguilar said. 

The program opens up again on Friday.