ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque gained national attention for a program that sent vans to pick up homeless people and put them to work. Now that program could be coming to an end.
It was touted as a solution to homelessness.
“I got to put some money in my pocket and I helped to clean up the community, it’s a good feeling,” a homeless worker said back in 2015.
Back in 2015, the city partnered with St. Martin’s, a nonprofit that helps the homeless, and launched the “There’s A Better Way” program. It was a concept Mayor Richard Berry hoped would curb panhandling and give the homeless jobs.
“There was a gentleman with a sign that says, ‘will work,’ so I came back to the office and told my staff, we’re going to take these folks up on their offer. Instead of being punitive and giving someone a ticket for standing on the corner panhandling, why don’t we give them a better opportunity?” said Richard Berry in a 2015 interview.
Each day, they would pick up the homeless and pay them $9 an hour for cleaning up the city for the day. However, KRQE News 13 has learned the program is coming to an end at the end of the month. The mayor’s office says St. Martin’s decided it no longer wanted to operate the service.
Just two years ago, the city put an additional $150,000 into the program so they could add another van to expand their services.
Earlier this year, Mayor Keller got rid of one piece of Berry’s “Better Way” effort. Keller says those blue 311 signs weren’t helping with the homeless problem.
“And all of those little blue signs that you see all over that say call 311 when you see a homeless person, don’t anymore,” Mayor Keller said in January.
Keller’s new orange ones encourage people to donate to the city’s homeless housing voucher program. The mayor’s office did not want to go on camera for this story.
In a statement, the city says they’re evaluating the program to see how well it worked and looking at other options to help the homeless find jobs.
St. Martin’s also did not wish to comment on this story.