From Tulsa’s Mayor By G.T. BYNUM
REAL CHANGE: The above van makes targeted stops that are known for panhandling and homelessness.
Courtesy City of Tulsa
Last fall I shared with you the idea of an innovative pilot program called “A Better Way” as a strategy to reduce panhandling. I’m pleased to tell you through the collaborative efforts of the City of Tulsa, Mental Health Association Oklahoma and the Tulsa Area United Way, we have officially launched the Better Way program to give panhandlers the opportunity to change their lives for the better.
The City budgeted for the program this fiscal year. Mental Health Association Oklahoma will help us by operating the program and addressing a broad range of needs, such as job placement and connecting people with the various services that are available. Tulsa Area United Way will fund an employment specialist who works with participants.
Panhandlers are not on the side of the road because panhandling is an easier way to make money. They are there because they need assistance but don’t know how or where to get it – or it’s just too hard to ask. That’s where A Better Way program comes in: to give hope to those who are struggling and to empower them to change their lives.
A Better Way gives panhandlers the dignity of a day’s wages cleaning up city parks or other public spaces. In exchange for their work and beautification efforts, they’ll receive $65 a day in cash and lunch where they’ll also learn about life-changing services in the community, such as housing, mental health and addiction treatment, and other sustainable employment services.
Inspired by a similar program in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tulsa’s A Better Way program utilizes a marked City van wrapped in bright green with white lettering. It goes out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to make targeted stops at areas within our community that are known for panhandling and homelessness, including pedestrian walkways, medians, and overpasses.
A Better Way is not only a message to people panhandling here, it’s a message to our community that there’s a better way than handing out money from the window of your car. Instead, we can give a hand up to those in need by supporting this program – giving them their dignity and making a tremendous difference in their lives. I invite you to check out the Better Way website, where you can contribute to this great program at: www.abetterwaytulsa.org.
A Better Way Tulsa is made possible through the collaborative efforts between the City of Tulsa, Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy (), Mental Health Association Oklahoma, Tulsa Area United Way and the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation.
You can also view last year’s video when I introduced the program at youtube.com.