New pilot program will offer employment to Austin's homeless and panhandling populations

The final community forum to gather input and ideas about services provided at the ARCH will be held Feb. 5.

The final community forum to gather input and ideas about services provided at the ARCH will be held Feb. 5.

Austin’s homeless and panhandling population will have more opportunities for work through a new pilot program approved by city council on Thursday.

Residents in Search of Empowerment ATX, or R.I.S.E. ATX, will offer temporary work opportunities to panhandlers and those experiencing homelessness in an effort to reduce both. District 8 Council Member Ellen Troxclair sponsored the item and modeled the proposal after a similar program being implemented in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

By connecting the homeless and panhandling to work, the program will aim to help in myriad ways, such as connecting individuals to mental health services, housing, and potential permanent employment situations.

“Employment restores dignity and helps people access and maintain housing,” said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homeless Coalition, or ECHO. “Currently over 60 percent of people experiencing homelessness lack access to jobs. This program addresses that gap.”

In the wake of Thursday’s approval, the city manager will begin identifying places and services where the homeless and panhandling population may be placed for work, as well as working with local organizations to help with administration and management of the program.