City Recruits the Homeless as Paid Workers

I never thought I’d see a Huffington Post article cite The Blaze about social policy. But it does so in this piece about Albuquerque: “Instead Of Arresting Panhandlers, Albuquerque’s Giving Them Jobs.”

After a series of incidents of police brutality, which included the fatal shooting of a schizophrenic homeless man this year, advocates and the Justice Department demanded that the Albuquerque Police Department overhaul its approach to how it treats homeless people and people with mental illness, The New York Times reported. And part of that reform includes a program that scouts homeless people and offers them jobs.

The city, together with St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, an organization that provides services to homeless people, dispenses outreach workers who offer odd jobs — which have the potential of turning into full-time opportunities — to people on the streets, according to KOAT.

The jobs, which include picking up trash and pulling weeds, were originally being done by the City of Albuquerque Solid Waste Department, according to the Blaze. But now those workers are free to tackle other tasks.

Using a $50,000 grant, the workers are paid $9 an hour and aren’t taxed until they they’ve earned $600.

The program picks up 10 panhandlers twice a week to work, and in order to get paid, they must put in about five to six hours of labor, according to The Times.

It hopes to expand to five days a week, according to the Blaze.

It’s a small start but it is a start.

Still, a $50,000 grant is a lot of money. Wouldn’t it be better to come up with a way for the private sector to offer jobs to these people and others?

Or maybe there is already a mechanism in place that induces people to hire other people to do jobs. It is called the free market.

But, of course, in the United States there are laws setting the minimum wage above what peoples’ labor is worth. Minimum wage law destroys jobs. Also there are taxes and regulation that make an employer pay even more for a worker. The worker doesn’t receive this money as wages but, nevertheless, it is what he costs his employer.

It is a good thing that some homeless are working, but there could be a lot more workers and a lot fewer homeless if government would get out of the way.