Homelessness is on the rise in most major cities, and while some Democrats are turning to big government solutions, a Republican mayor from New Mexico is teaming up with non-profits and actually fixing the problem.
Albuquerque's Mayor Richard Berry saw a rise in panhandlers in his city and knew that something had to be done. Rather than trying to kick them out, or just building new government shelters, he gave them a chance to work.
In September 2015, Berry launched "There’s a Better Way," a government program that hires panhandlers to work on city beautification projects for $9 an hour. They're also fed lunch and offered an overnight stay at a shelter.
The project has been a runaway success. The program has not only given out 932 jobs and cleared litter and weeds from 196 city blocks; it has also connected 100 homeless people to permanent employment, according to the Washington Post.
Four days a week, the "There's a Better Way" van picks up about 10 homeless people a day and offers them work.
The non-profit St. Martin’s Hospitality Center facilitates the city's program and has worked to connect the homeless with a support system, employment, and assistance in transitioning them out of life on the street.
A man who had just recently gotten out of prison was picked up by the van, and after working for a day, he went to St. Martin's for assistance. He is now in a support group, enrolled in a day laborer's program, has access to behavioral health services, and working on getting ID.
Berry's campaign to relieve the city's homeless population is a stark difference from other municipalities that have simply banned panhandling. That's treating a symptom without ever attacking the disease. Berry's program has been so successful that dozens of other mayors have reached out to him to work on creating their own similar programs.
The plight of homelessness is on the rise in many major cities. A 2014 report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that families experiencing homelessness increased by 43 percent in 25 cities.
Watch the great work "There's a Better Way" has been doing below: