ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A local nonprofit is helping the homeless help themselves through a new extension of a successful city initiative.
“Some people are a paycheck away, and that’s all it is,” said Vicky Palmer, associate executive director of St. Martin’s Hospitality Center.
Palmer says Albuquerque sees its fair share of people down on their luck, looking to make a few bucks for a place to stay the night.
“There really are people willing to work and the misconception of homeless people being just drug addicts and alcoholics,” said Palmer. “These are your brother, your mother, your sister — any of us.”
St. Martin’s is a nonprofit offering services to the city’s homeless and near homeless. Palmer says their new initiative makes it easier for these folks to get back into the workforce.
“We’ve had so many people sign up for this, it’s just crazy,” Palmer said.
Once they do, Palmer says they go through a thorough orientation and a basic screening process before they’re matched with an employer.
“Neighbors, churches, businesses that just want someone to come and do some day labor stuff,” said Palmer.
Palmer says the operation is an extension of the “Better Way Van” program – a city initiative based on Mayor Berry’s exchange with a panhandler. She recounted the conversation.
“If I were to give you a job for $9 an hour, would you take it? Absolutely,” Palmer explained.
The “Better Way Van” travels throughout the city, picking up people who want a job for the day.
“‘Better Way Van’ is now four days a week. But that’s six people a day, four days a week, and there are so many more of our clients who want to work,” explained Palmer.
It’s why she hopes more homeowners, groups and businesses will sign on as employers.
“They’re loving it. They’re loving this extra chance,” Palmer said of St. Martin’s clients.
Palmer says the program’s been in place less than three weeks and, already, 75 people have been through orientation and 26 have been placed in jobs. She says they have $50,000 to spend on the project and hopes they can make it last a year.
Participating employers negotiate wages directly with workers. If you want to sign up, you can call Vicky Palmer at 505-242-4399, Ext. 237.
St. Martin’s Hospitality Center also has job developers, who help people find permanent jobs. Each one places about 24 formerly homeless people a month.