Ellen Troxclair proposes program aimed at reducing homelessness, panhandling

Council member Ellen Troxclair will present her proposal for a new homelessness aid program to her colleagues at an Aug. 31 meeting.

Council member Ellen Troxclair will present her proposal for a new homelessness aid program to her colleagues at an Aug. 31 meeting.

Ellen Troxclair, Austin City Council member for District 8, is proposing a citywide pilot program that she said she hopes will reduce homelessness and panhandling through the dignity of work.

The program, inspired by a similar concept in Albuquerque, New Mexico called "There’s a Better Way," aims to empower homeless individuals in Austin by providing them the chance to earn money through odd day jobs.

Part of Thursday’s proposal will task city staff with determining which jobs the city could offer to these individuals, Troxclair said. The Albuquerque program employs the homeless population through labor work, such as beautification projects, graffiti removal, or walking dogs at the animal shelter.

“These are the kinds of things we’re suggesting they can do, but I will ask the staff to come back to council with [suggestions of] which programs it would benefit the most,” Troxclair said.

Troxclair said the city would partner with local nonprofits to help recruit interested candidates and will connect them with assistance to other programs to get them back on their feet. Those who choose to participate will be paid an hourly rate to be determined by council.

“This is an innovative and unique way to not only improve the lives of those who need it but also help clean up the city in the process,” Troxclair said.

She added the program would also help save $50,000 per taxpayer per year by connecting those in need to permanent employment and housing. Troxclair said she is hoping to fund this program through private donations but is proposing allocating up to $120,000 of city funds if necessary.

On Thursday, Troxclair will present the program and proposed fund allocation to council. If approved, the the program will be piloted by Jan. 1, 2018.