Arkansas city will pay panhandlers minimum wage for work

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The Hope Works Initiative will pay participants minimum wage to pick up litter from roads and public areas

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Six months after a judge struck down a Hot Springs ordinance that would have restricted panhandling, the city is rolling out a new program that will offer work to the homeless and panhandlers.

The Hope Works Initiative announced Tuesday will pay participants minimum wage to pick up litter from roads and public areas. It’s expected to start by the month’s end, The Sentinel-Record reported.

City Manager Bill Burrough told the Hot Springs Board of Directors that the program will help people connect to other support services offered by nonprofits and local churches. It will also direct participants to resources such as substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to break this cycle of poverty by getting people connected into resources that can help them break the poverty chain. We can also beautify the city. We’re very proud of this program,” Burrough said.

Burrough said participants will work four to five hours for three days a week, focusing on state and federal highways inside the city.

The city is partnering with Jackson House, a local crisis center that will staff and oversee the program.

Giving money to panhandlers is a waste, Janie Smith, the executive director of the Jackson House, said. “I think there’s a better solution, like the one we’re going to start where people work and earn money. There’s a certain sense of pride you get from earning money. It’s totally different from just standing there and hoping someone will give you something.”

Little Rock adopted a similar program this year.

“Just giving someone a job is not going to solve all their problems,” Smith said. “You have to transition them from homelessness to a sense of self-worth, responsibility, working on a schedule and in a team environment.”

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