'A Better Way' Program Looks To Stop Panhandling, Beautify Tulsa

Thursday, April 27th 2017, 6:52 pm
By: News On 6

Panhandling is a major issue around the Tulsa area, and Mayor G.T. Bynum has a plan to stop it.

"The Better Way Program" offers panhandlers a daily job cleaning up the town or landscaping, and the mayor hopes it gets people off the streets and makes Tulsa a more beautiful place to live.

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

Homeless centers hope panhandlers will stay off the streets and continue to work, even after the day is done.

Tulsa city leaders are working to find a better way to get panhandlers off street corners.

Bynum said a new program offers panhandlers daily work beautifying the city; it’s an idea other cities, like Albuquerque, are having success with.

John 3:16 CEO Steve Whitaker said, "I think it's a great idea. It's a groundbreaking idea. I think that we can make a real go of it in our community."

The reverend said Tulsa has had a problem with panhandling for a long time.

"It's critically important that people just go back to work,” Whitaker said. "It's a lost art in our society to get up, get dressed, and show up."

Since the flagship program started in Albuquerque in 2015, the homeless have worked nearly 2,000 day jobs picking up more than 117,000 pounds of trash.

Plus, close to 250 people have been able to get connected to more permanent employment.

"Being able to provide for yourself and provide for your family, it does give you a sense of accomplishment, it gives you a sense of pride," said homeless outreach clinical supervisor, Kathy Loehr.

Loehr and Whitaker said they hope the sense of dignity and purpose that comes from having a job will be enough to get panhandlers and the homeless off the streets for good.

Whitaker said John 3:16 has programs to put people back to work, which is much more helpful in the long run than a handful of cash.