ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A new initiative rolled out by the City of Albuquerque on Wednesday is asking people to not give money to panhandlers.
From one street corner to the next, panhandlers are a very common sight in Albuquerque.
“I’ve been approached many times,” said Zye Patterson.
“I see a lot of the homeless people and they are always asking for change. It makes me a little disheartened,” said Amy Brown.
“It seems to me it’s growing in numbers. There’s a lot more,” said Tatiana Schotte.
The city said it appears there are a lot more. In fact, Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry said he thinks panhandling has gotten so common in the Duke City that he has now started a new initiative called “There’s a Better Way.”
The idea is to for people to not give money to those asking for it on the streets.
“If you hand $5 out of your window to a panhandler today that panhandler can go down to a fast food restaurant and buy a hamburger and fries,” said Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry.
Instead, the city wants people to donate money to the United Way of Central New Mexico. The group will then use the money to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless and help the mentally ill.
Panhandler Joseph Florez said it’s not quite that simple.
“I’m panhandling to get money just to get through the night or you know to get through the week,” said Florez.
Florez recently lost his home and his job. He told KRQE News 13 he’s out searching for work every week. When he’s not, he stands on the street corner.
“It’s hard. It sucks sometimes,” said Florez. “You get the good with the bad. It is what it is. I think it’s a lot better than me being out there being dishonest or stealing or shoplifting.”
Florez said it should be up to the person if they want to give panhandlers cash, not the city.
“If you don’t want to give you don’t have to,” he said. “It’s all up to the person. I’m not going to get mad at them because they’re giving it to me out of the goodness of their heart.”
The city is also putting up about 30 signs around town to remind drivers to not give out money to panhandlers. The signs tell people to call 311 if they want to donate and have the charity’s website on them.
Police do not cite people for aggressive panhandling and it can be seen around Albuquerque all the time.