Indianapolis calls panhandler work initiative a success

City calls panhandler work program a success

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Former panhandlers have been at work picking up trash along Indianapolis roads for more than a month now.

The initiative is part of the city’s Pathways to Employment program.

The program appears to be a success with many people coming back week after week.

People involved in the program say they keep coming back for the same reason everyone else goes to their job everyday — to make a living.

Twenty-one people went from being homeless or panhandling on the side of the road to earning $10 an hour as city employees.

“We see the program as a significant success,” Director of Public Health and Safety Paul Babcock said. “They’ve put in about 2,000 hours of work.”

The city is clearly feeling pretty good about how things have gone, but how do the people working feel compared to their situations before?

“To me it’s a good thing so far,” Michael Gilbert said. “It’s just that, like I said, you really ain’t got nothing to lose. It’s either let them help you or go find your own job.”

Gilbert has been with the program since it started on May 20. He said even though he’s still living with family, his life is turning around.

“It’s changed a little bit,” Gilbert said. “Only thing that’s changed is I’m getting a check every week. That’s better than not getting a check and going to Horizon House everyday and sitting there!”

Gilbert did not say whether he’d recommend picking up trash, but he did say there’s a lot worse things out there.

“What’s worse than being homeless?” Gilbert asked. “What could be the next worst thing? Death? Hospital? I’m just naming some things. But I mean, what could you lose?”

While things are turning around for Gilbert and his coworkers, there are still people out there who are panhandling. The city says there is a wait list of people looking to join the program and the city is working to find ways to expand it, but panhandling is still something really common to see downtown.

“It’s not a huge problem,” Greenleaf employee Jacob Powell said. “They sometimes will just kind of hang out and congregate around outside of the store, but it doesn’t really bother me. As long as they aren’t there for, like, hours.”

The city said official statistics on the first month or so will be released soon. News 8 will update this story once those results are released.