Committee passes plan to pay panhandlers to pick up litter downtown

Indianapolis Panhandling Plan
Putting panhandlers to work

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A plan to help combat panhandling by providing jobs to people who are homeless unanimously passed a City County Council Committee Wednesday. It now heads to the full council for a vote on February 25.

Proposal No. 88 calls for the city to contract with service providers to hire homeless people to "assist in cleaning beautification and litter abatement."

Funding for the program, projected to cost about $150,000 a year, would come from an increase in parking meter revenue.

Other cities across the country including Lexington, Kentucky, Dallas, Texas and San Jose, California have adopted similar programs.

It's one of the initiatives that Mayor Hogsett announced after Council Republican Minority Leader Michael McQuillen proposed a "No Sit No Lie" ordinance last fall. While many agreed more needed to be done to address the city's homeless population, that ordinance met stiff opposition.

McQuillen called paying people who are homeless to pick up litter "an interesting idea," but said he had questions as to how it would work.

"Who qualifies? Do you give them cash or a check? What will they do? How long will they work? And are they truly homeless? There's a big difference between being truly homeless and needy and professional panhandles out trying to make a buck," he said.

Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett said, "anyone who is outside downtown requesting financial assistance could be eligible for the program. It's an opportunity to gain employment skills, to build work history and to ideally transition into full time employment in the community."

Bennett said the program would likely pay $9 to $11 an hour and be administered by Horizon House, which provides services for those who are homeless. He said the number of hours worked and requirements to participate are still being worked out.