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Community Safety
News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Springfield Initiative to Offer Panhandlers Work, Encourage Safer Environment to Get Help

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A new program in Springfield aims to provide light labor day jobs, long-term employment opportunities or other assistance to panhandlers and reduce their reliance on seeking donations at busy intersections.  

The “Wheels to Work” initiative, announced Tuesday, is the result of months of discussions between the city and local organizations.

“We thought we would take a creative approach to addressing panhandlers and come up with a program that could help them maybe find other alternatives and also provide other alternatives to people to support, rather than giving directly to panhandlers,” says city spokesperson Cora Scott.

The eight-week pilot program is expected to launch in about a month. Scott says it will feature signage at 12 intersections that panhandlers frequent to inform them of available services. Day labor jobs and some longer term work will be offered through the firm People Ready.   

“They have many, many jobs available, especially now in the spring as we get into more construction season,” says Scott. “So this will just be a better way to facilitate those in need with those employers who have jobs.”

The program also partners with Crosslines, which will offer free transport for these individuals to places like the Missouri Career Center to receive job placement services.

Tom Faulkner, Crosslines’ director, says they can also get them to other community resources if they’re not be ready for work.

“Simple things from needing identification such as a social security card or a driver’s license that they need to get their paper work in to resolve that problem. Or they might have a drug and alcohol or mental illness problem that we might need to defer them to different program; but eventually the goal would be to get them ready to be employable.”

Scott adds that whether they’re living on the street or have very little means, there can be many barriers some need to address before they can get into even a day job.

“So we’re hoping that by partnering up with Crosslines, other homeless advocacy groups, and taking individuals to the job center, we’re able to connect them with all types of resources that they may need,” she said.  

The Wheels to Work announcement comes just days after a woman that was panhandling at a city intersection was struck by a motorist and tossed several feet. Her injuries were not major.

Springfield City Council had to repeal its ordinance against aggressive panhandling last year after courts had struck down similar laws elsewhere.

The city outlines its Wheels to Work program in this PowerPoint, presented to City Council.