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Amarillo Mayor asks city staff to explore hiring area homeless

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole says he has tasked city staff with the idea of providing area homeless with day jobs that would provide pay. (Steven Graves -- ABC 7 Amarillo)

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole says he has tasked city staff with the idea of providing area homeless with day jobs that would provide pay.

Harpole said he was inspired after seeing a program in Albuquerque instituted by Mayor Richard Berry.

"I think it's just something we should explore,” said Harpole. “It looked like a novel idea."

The program would reportedly pick up panhandlers and homeless on a periodic basis. The city would employ them with beatification jobs like picking up trash and clearing weeds. In Albuquerque, homeless workers earned a little more than minimum wage.

"Apparently [Berry] has been doing this for a little over a year and it's been very successful in their words," Harpole said.

In regards to Amarillo, Harpole said he sees labor going toward beautification also, specifically the growing tire cleanup issue.

"I think what I'm concerned about is if there is a vehicle where [homeless] can get work.” Harple said. “When you go over on Adams St. and 7th, seeing those men lined up to get work, I hope they would get on board."

Harpole said the solution is not to build another homeless shelter, as he insisted there are enough services with adequate staff.

Numbers have varied between the city and homeless advocates about how many homeless are in Amarillo, but the local Salvation Army said they still constantly see hundreds take advantage of services.

"Out of those, about 25 or 30-percent would have some kind of regular job,” said Major Harvey Johnson. ”It may not be permanent, but they have some kind of employment going on, so any additional will be very meaningful."

Johnson also attested to how much of a struggle it is for homeless to acquire jobs, saying they sometimes get scammed by day job employers in certain circumstances.

"We're looking at probably mental health issues and medication issues that need to be addressed and this may give us a tie as it did in Albuquerque, from what I've read,” Harpole said. “We’ll begin to talk to the [homeless] and begin to work with them in a way that's positive, a way we can influence them and give them a little bit of help in just getting their lives together."

Harpole said the localized program idea was handed over to the city manager about two weeks ago to work out logistics.

A report from the city is expected down the road to specifically address costs that will come along with the program.

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