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There's A Better Way Garners National Attention

Albuquerque establishes a best practice to address panhandling

February 18, 2016

Albuquerque, NM- Today, on the heels of its viral success, Albuquerque’s There’s a Better Way program is hosting visitors from the City of El Paso, Texas to see how the program is operated. El Paso joins over 50 cities, towns, and states that have taken interest in this innovative, collective impact driven panhandling solution.

About 'There's a Better Way'

In May 2015, Mayor Richard J. Berry launched the There’s a Better Way campaign to give panhandlers a chance at a change in their lives and a way to provide caring members of our community with a better way to donate their money.

At multiple locations around the city, signs were posted to encourage panhandlers to dial 311 for support from local support service providers.

Panhandlers are in the streets for any number of reasons, but a call to 311 will provide an opportunity to access these services for shelter, food, or mental health.

There’s a Better Way works in collaboration with the UnitedWay of Central New Mexico to quickly take donations at DONATEabq.org or 311 so that donations can be combined to collectively end panhandling with the rest of the community. Donations are given, at each donor’s discretion, to support a number of local charities that focus on caring for members of our Albuquerque community that are most in need.

Community Efforts

Within months of its initial launch, Mayor Berry unveiled the There’s a Better Way Van to circulate throughout the city and offer panhandlers a job for the day. In partnership with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, the van transports individuals to a job site under the supervision of the City of Albuquerque Solid Waste Department, to do work such as landscape beautification in designated areas to earn a day’s pay.

At the end of the workday, the workers receive their pay from St. Martin’s and can get connected with other resources as needed or available.

Program Success

To date, the program has seen many great statistics:

  • Over 6,700 people have been connected to services they may not have known about previously.
  • $8,255 has been donated to United Way of Central New Mexico to be distributed to community service providers
  • 426 day jobs have been offered through There’s a Better Way Van. From those workers several accepted other forms of assistance:
    • 20 people were connected to more permanent employment
    • 59 people have been connected with mental health resources
    • 5 people have been placed in housing
  • 92 City Blocks have been cleaned through this program with over 41,000 pounds of trash and debris cleared

Since its inception other cities and towns have reached out to Mayor Berry’s office to see how the program can be adapted to their community. Most recently, Seattle, WA implemented a similar van program citing Albuquerque’s leadership. National press on the program has spread rapidly with features on NBC Nightly News, PBS Newshour, NY Times, Governing Magazine, and viral success with cumulative 9.5 million views on Upworthy.com video highlighting the program.

Video: 'There's a Better Way'

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For more information on the program please visit DONATEabq.org.