New program in northern Indiana would pay panhandlers to work

File image of panhandler (Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND, Ind.— Officials in a northern Indiana city say a new program they’re proposing would pay panhandlers to work.

A group of South Bend Common Council members proposed the resolution Monday, the South Bend Tribune reports. They asked the city administration to set aside $25,000 for the effort in the 2018 budget request.

The plan would pay panhandlers $10.10 an hour, the minimum wage for city employees. The resolution doesn’t specify the type of work but references other programs in Portland, Maine, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, which include jobs such as cleaning public parks and spaces.

“The resolution helps give the administration a framework of what we’d like to see in place and budgeted,” said Oliver Davis, a council member. “We don’t really have to recreate the wheel… since programs are already out there and having some degree of success.”

The South Bend mayor’s office has reached out to Albuquerque officials to learn more about their program.

About four people have signed up for Portland’s program, according to Portland city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin.

“The workers thus far have been great candidates, very hard workers who are looking to remove the barriers they’ve faced to long-term employment,” Grondin said.

South Bend resident Douglas Harkleroad said he would prefer to work for the city instead of panhandling.

“I want a steady income,” he said. “You think I like doing this? It’s embarrassing. I’d rather have a job, something I can be proud of. Work, sweat, dirt, I can come home and take a shower.”

Local resident Bill Paxson was less interested in the opportunity.

“Probably not so much,” Paxson said. “Doctor says I’m unable to work, pinched nerve in my back. I’m not against it. I would probably go.”

The city also addressed panhandling in 2001 with an ordinance that bans aggressive panhandling involving violent or profane language.