ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A group of college students in Albuquerque said they are using the city’s strict new panhandling ordinance as a way to connect with a struggling population.
It is now illegal to hand something to a panhandler from your car. You have to pull over, park and get out. So that’s exactly what this group of about 20 UNM and CNM students did Sunday.
It’s a familiar and often uncomfortable sight for many.
“It’s something I’ve seen growing up every day. It’s easy to try to look away but they are there,” said outreach volunteer Paris Packer.
Panhandlers are often seen at interstate on and off-ramps or standing in busy medians across Albuquerque. However, it’s a sight drivers may see less of, now that city councilors passed an ordinance restricting where people can panhandle.
It also says drivers can’t give panhandlers money or food. The sponsor of the ordinance claims it’s about pedestrian safety.
“Trying to conform into what some of the federal government wants as far as traffic safety,” said City Councilor Trudy Jones earlier this month.
Opponents said the ordinance is a violation of civil rights.
Now, a group students known as S.O.I.L, have come together to find the positive in the situation.
“Which means sold out intentional living. We believe one of the best ways to be sold out and live intentional is to meet the need of the community around us,” said outreach volunteer Darnell Pollard.
Sunday, the group took care packages filled with food, water, toiletries and socks and passed them out to people at Coronado Park.
“It’s most effective when we actually have to pull over because it gives us a unique opportunity to minister to that person. To really meet their need and really be intentional about meeting with those people,” Pollard said.
“Instead of shying away from them we’re embracing them,” Packer said.
Members of S.O.I.L. hope their efforts will encourage others to take the time to pull over and reach out.
The group passed out 80 care packages and plans to do it again, routinely.
In regards to the new ordinance, the city plans to put signs up in areas where people can longer panhandle. It is unclear when that will happen.