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Mayor’s office wants to pay panhandlers to clean up Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis mayor’s office plans to deter panhandlers by giving them jobs. 

The city wants to pay panhandlers to clean up litter and graffiti, especially in the downtown area. Wages would come from the expansion of metered parking hours the Indianapolis City-County Council passed this month. 

Mikey Swimm, a homeless man in Indianapolis who sometimes drums on a bucket for tips, said he’d be interested in the work. 

“Whatever they could give me, honestly. I mean, if it’s picking up garbage, then I’m not expecting a huge amount of wages,” Swimm said. 

The office of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is still deciding on how many panhandlers they could employ and how much the workers could earn, according to Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor of community development. 

“We could pay an hourly wage for 20-30 hours a week of employment, which could lead to someone being stablized and then being able to be housed,” Bennnett said. 

The city of Albuquerque launched a program in 2015 that pays panhandlers for garbage pickup and landscaping work. Participants are paid $9 per hour. 

Albuquerque’s program is still active and, according to, more than 1,500 people have participated. According to the website, 76 participants have gained permanent jobs and 355 received mental health, substance abuse services or both. 

A map on shows more than a dozen other cities have launched similar programs. 

“We get the benefit of learning from them and not having to reinvent the wheel,” Bennett said. 

Bennett said the city plans to spend about $150,000 on the workforce project. 

If the City-County Council gives the green light, Bennett hopes to have the program running this spring. 

It is one of three programs the city hopes to fund with the expanded meter money: The two other programs would help connect homeless people with housing, health care or support services. 

Bennett expected council to vote on the plans Monday night.