Could this help solve Tulsa's panhandling problem?
A Better Way offers participants a day’s wages to beautify Tulsa while connecting them to employment services.
The staff of A Better Way: Rob Harmon, Lisa Reser, Gerald Keene and Alex Aguilar
A new program that offers an alternative to panhandling has been inundated with participants.
Eighty-one people utilized A Better Way in its first four weeks, accepting a day’s wages to beautify Tulsa while being connected to employment services, according to Alex Aguilar, director of Employment First at Mental Health Association Oklahoma. The organization contracts with the City of Tulsa to oversee A Better Way.
Inspired by a similar employment program in Albuquerque, Mayor G.T. Bynum introduced A Better Way to Tulsa last year. It launched March 7.
Three days a week, the program’s van makes stops at areas known for panhandling and homelessness. One day a week, participants can be picked up from the Denver House peer-run drop-in center. Running a work crew of eight, the program consistently has a waitlist.
Aguilar says many people believe the homeless don’t want to work, but A Better Way is proving otherwise. “Day by day, as we run the van, we find a full crew quickly, and are struggling to figure out what to do with the dozens of people we have to turn away each day,” she says. “When given the opportunity, most people will choose the dignity of earning their wage, opposed to asking for it on a street corner.”