Homeless man on Albuquerque panhandler project: ‘It’s a God-send’

An inside look at Albuquerque panhandler project a year later

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s been a year since the mayor of Albuquerque implemented a program to help panhandlers by telling them, “There’s a better way” than standing on a street corner.

KRQE News 13 took a look at the program a year in and spoke directly to the people it’s affecting.

News 13 rode along with Oscar Butler Thursday morning, as he picked up panhandlers, asking them if they’d like to work for the day.

“I love working with people,” Butler told KRQE News 13.

On the Tuesdays and Thursdays he drives the van for St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, Butler doesn’t know yet who he’ll be working with.

The workers come to him. It’s all part of the city of Albuquerque’s “There’s A Better Way” campaign.

Mayor Richard J. Berry started the initiative a year ago to get panhandlers off the streets.

“There’s a better way than standing on a corner, there’s a better way than handing your dollar out of your window,” Mayor Richard J. Berry told News 13.

Rather than give panhandlers money, the idea is to give to the cause so people can connect with needed resources.

Butler is consistently filling his van with people ready to work for $9 an hour cleaning up the city for a day.

“Most often I’ll get pretty much all 10 people from the first stop,” Butler said.

“This program today is a God-send,” Thomas Trusley, a homeless man in Albuquerque, told News 13.

Trusley said the money he’ll receive from working for the day will help him look presentable, since his first priority is finding permanent work.

“With today’s monies I’ll be able to get the shaving gear and the cologne,” Trusley chuckled.

The 68 year-old homeless man said it’s tough dealing with the lack of permanent work.

“I was a shop mechanic,” Trusley recalled.

An unexpected layoff left him homeless a year-and-a-half ago. He lost everything. Still, Trusley said he stays positive.

“I don’t have a jacket but I have got a clean shirt. I call it my ‘Sunday dos’,” Trusley said.

So far Trusley is just one of 468 who’ve taken the city’s daily job offer in the first four months. Butler works alongside them.

“The integrity of just being able to do a great day’s work and they do good work,” Butler said.

So is this a better way? For Trusley and dozens of others, it’s a start.

Seattle, Washington has also created a local program modeled after Albuquerque’s

“You have to kind of remember not to lose your faith in God, because I can’t see what’s in store for me,” Trusley said.

There’s been more than $50,000 raised for the program in donations, half of which come from out of state.

There have also been more than 8,000 calls into 311 for people getting connected to services.

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