New program aims to give Spokane panhandlers jobs


A brand new program is rolling out in Spokane that's aimed to help panhandlers get jobs. The idea came from a successful program out of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Goodwill Industries is trying it for the very first time in a pilot program.

"The Goodwill's motto is to give a hand up instead of a handout," said Briana Richardson, Workforce and Family Services Regional Manager with Goodwill Industries.

The newly designed program called Hope Works is aimed to reach out to the panhandling community. Several community partners are coming together to make it happen like the city, the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the House of Charity.

They'll have a new white van with two Goodwill Industries employees inside that will drive around the downtown Spokane core, looking for panhandlers. "They'll be stopping and saying, 'Hey would you like to work today?'" said Heather Alexander, Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications with Goodwill Industries.

When they say yes, they'll be taken to a spot in the city to work, like raking leaves at Riverfront Park, planting flowers or cleaning up sidewalks. If they say no, they'll be asked if they need any help.

They'll even be introduced to Goodwill Industries employment services, like how to build a resume, or how to dress for success. If they need a place to stay, they'll be offered to sleep in a bed at the House of Charity. "It's good to give people opportunities," said Sam Dompier, Director of the House of Charity.

At the end of the day, it's all about building a path for those who need it the most and creating meaningful relationships. "It's really gratifying work to work directly with the population that really needs the most help in the city," said Richardson.

The panhandlers will also get paid but it won't be in the form of actual money. It will be in the form of a gift card of some kind.

Hope Works is a pilot program that will run 18 months. The goal is to roll out the program sometime in May.

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