Statistical analysis and scholarly forecasts (and his own advisors) tell him about the symptoms and effects of homelessness, economic implications and sound-yet-politically-safe policy prescriptions. In essence, the mayor never needs leave his office to confront the issue—but he does.
Since taking office, the republican Mayor has made it his principal interest to connect the homeless population to public services.
To better understand the challenges involved, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives, their fears and their hopes for the future. His city’s poorest residents told him what he already suspected; they obviously didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go.
On one particular day, while driving around his constituency, he saw a man on a street corner holding a sign that read: “Want a Job. Anything Helps,” and suddenly the issue became—at least for Berry—a simple one.
Rather than the government continuing to ask the homeless to simply “shake off” their dispirited sense of hopelessness and get a job, the city could bring the work to them.
The program, which became known as “There’s a Better Way,” is now nearly a year old, and to date has given out 932 jobs beautifying the City of Albuquerque, including weed-pulling and litter removal.
Over a hundred homeless participants have been connected to permanent employment through the program, which itself pays $9 per hour—higher than the federal minimum wage—and includes lunch as well as transport to and from jobsites.
“You can just see the spiral they’ve been on to end up on the corner. Sometimes it takes a little catalyst in their lives to stop the downward spiral, to let them catch their breath, and it’s remarkable,” Berry said in an interview. ”They’ve had the dignity of work for a day; someone believed in them today.”
What Do You Think?
Is this conservative mayor taking the right approach to end homelessness? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so share them with the world on Twitter or Facebook.