City says most panhandlers not homeless
LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 25, 2017) — Mayor Jim Gray today unveiled an “End Panhandling Now!” van that will travel Lexington streets, offering a ride and a job to those who want an opportunity to work and earn.
The van will be operated by New Life Day Center. With approval from the Urban County Council, the city plans to donate the van to the organization. Workers will earn $9 an hour.
“No one has to beg for food or shelter in Lexington,” Gray said. “Our city invests almost $6 million a year in programs that help people experiencing homelessness or those living in extreme poverty. We provide shelter, housing and food. This is a new opportunity to work and earn.”
The idea was inspired by a program in Albuquerque where panhandlers are hired for day jobs beautifying the city.
Lexington will provide jobs cleaning up the community, Gray said. Private businesses needing day laborers are also encouraged to participate.
Instead of giving change to panhandlers, which can result in supporting dangerous addictions to alcohol and illegal drugs, Gray encouraged citizens to give to LexGive.com, which will help support the jobs van. The United Way’s 2-1-1 program is administering LexGive and offers those needing help free resource referral.
Charlie Lanter, former Director of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, said there has been a surge in panhandling in Lexington since an ordinance was struck down, with many of those asking for help on Lexington’s streets coming here or being dropped off here from surrounding communities. He said, “Very few of the panhandlers are literally homeless. We know most of the people here who are homeless. We work with them every day.”
In the next few weeks the city will be erecting signage at intersections asking citizens not to give cash to panhandlers. There will also be information in LexServ bills and through public service announcements.
Lexington police have already increased their presence in areas where the city has experienced increased panhandling. Citizens are urged to report illegal, threatening conduct to police.