Tulsa Leaders Eager To Implement Plan To Cut Down Panhandling

Wednesday, May 10th 2017, 6:10 pm

Some Tulsa leaders want to start a program to cut down on panhandling by offering short-term work.

Mayor G.T. Bynum and a few other Tulsans went to New Mexico to see the program work and want to start something similar this summer.

The panhandlers stationed at many Tulsa traffic signals generate cash and complaints.

The discomfort of not helping compels some people to give when authorities on homelessness and poverty say that's not the best way to help.

"You don't have to feel guilty about not handing money to people who are standing on the side of the road with a sign. With this program, there is a better way," said Mike Brose with the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.

A Better Way is a program started three years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to curb panhandling and help direct cash into services that help.

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

The City offers day labor, with cash wages, and urges people to give to the program instead of the person. Albuquerque pays $9 an hour.

Alan Armijo with the City of Albuquerque said, "This is not going to end panhandling in a few months - it may long term, but it's really is helping people out with services.”

In Albuquerque, the city is expanding the program because it works so well.

Armijo said, "If you give somebody a chance to work they feel good about that, they feel empowered to change their lives and they get connected to other services as well."

The Tulsa leaders who saw it firsthand said they believe it would work here - creating long-term change starting with a one-day job.

“We were barely able out of the parking lot when people were waving the van over saying, ‘Hey, can I work, I'd like to make some cash,’” Brose said.

The City has $25,000 for it in the budget to start next January.

4/26/2017 Related Story: Tulsa Mayor Proposes $824 Million Budget

If a charity can get on board quickly it could start before then, possibly mid-summer.