Program offers work to homeless, panhandlers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --A new program in the City of Memphis aims to help those who are homeless and panhandle.

"I'm confident that we're going to see people exit out of homelessness and build bridges out of poverty," Kelcey Johnson with Hospitality HUB.

The goal is to give people like Chris Anderson a chance.

Anderson, who asked us not to show his face, is homeless.

He said a little help is often what people in situations similar to his need because once you're down on your luck it's hard to get back up.

"This would be a good opportunity for some of the homeless to get on their feet. Work a little every day, save up or get a birth certificate or social security card to start getting where they need to be."

The new program--announced this morning works like this.

Two days a week, a van from the Hospitality HUB and Calvary Episcopal Church will drive around Downtown and Midtown Memphis.

They will pick up panhandlers who will then clean up blight in certain parts of the city.

They'll be paid $9 an hour, be served lunch and will get help finding a place to sleep for the night as well counseling if needed.

The program was modeled after a similar successful initiative in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"We saw that it was such a simple idea but one with really profound effects," said Priest Buddy Stallings with Calvary Episcopal Church.

The budget is $140,000, and most of the money has come from the city's Public Works funds and other groups.

In the future, they hope it can run from private donations and partnerships.

"Creators of this new project say it's unique because you have so many groups across the city coming together for the common good."

"The challenges of Memphis are too big for city government alone to be able to fix," said Mayor Jim Strickland.

"While some people may look at this and say 'oh that not going to help the whole population.' Well, of course, it's not but at least it's a start," said City Council member Janis Fullilove.

Anderson agreed.

He said while there are some people who are looking for a handout, there are many who genuinely want to better their lives.

"I would do it. Let that van come by me and I'll be chasing them down."

Learn more about the program Here