A program launched last July to reduce aggressive panhandling in Downtown Cincinnati is still showing good results.
It's part of a larger effort called GeneroCity 513. The initial pilot project includes a "Jobs Van" and additional outreach workers on downtown streets.
City Gospel Mission operates the van four days a week, offering panhandlers a day job working on beautification projects.
"The goal of the Jobs Van was to not only provide some work to folks who were on the street and kind of raise their self-esteem by connecting them with that work, earning that money," said Joe Rudemiller, with 3CDC, which is partner and funder for the effort. "But also building up some trust and a rapport with them so that they felt comfortable with some of our outreach workers to go ahead and take that next step to getting other services."
Some statistics on the Jobs Van through March 31:
- Days in operation: 111
- Riders: 1,073
- Unique riders: 185
- Acceptance level for work: 95%
- Riders connected to other services: 93 (to permanent employment: 13; permanent housing: 30; entered rehab: 11; entered a shelter: 36)
- Miles cleaned: 486.5
- Bags of trash: 4,082
Participants on the Jobs Van are provided a free lunch and are paid in cash at the end of the day. The pay rate is $9 an hour.
"There are some folks who have gotten into permanent housing who are still panhandling unfortunately," Rudemiller said. "But we continue to try to work with those folks to transition them away from that and to really focus on again housing and full-time employment."
The two additional outreach workers are connecting with some of the more difficult panhandling cases.
"And some of the panhandlers who - the first time our outreach workers tried to engage with them, they just kind of shoo them away and say 'I don't want to talk I'm panhandling' - they are starting to come around," Rudemiller said. "And really building a rapport with these individuals which has allowed them to make some progress and trying to connect them with some of those other social service agencies."
Stats for the outreach workers as of March 31:
- Panhandlers connected with other services: 85 (to permanent housing: 3; to PATH/mental health services: 20)
Rudemiller said for now the focus will remain on the Jobs Van and the outreach workers.
"I think we'll continue to analyze that and if we feel like we're making success, then we can always adjust whether that's adding, you know, additional hours or adding additional outreach workers or adding another Jobs Van, we're continuing to look at that," Rudemiller said.
GeneroCity 513 is a partnership involving 3CDC, Downtown Cincinnati Inc. (DCI), City of Cincinnati, City Gospel Mission, Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services and Strategies to End Homelessness.
The groups developed a task force to study an increasing problem with aggressive panhandling in the city. The task force interviewed residents, business owners and panhandlers as part of its work. It also reviewed best practices and programs to address panhandling from other cities.
"Right now we're working on trying to pull kind of an updated survey together and get that out to see if what we’ve been told actually would kind of come to bear and the numbers of that survey," Rudemiller said. "It's not exactly a scientific survey, but at the same time we feel like we set a baseline, and we've been in operation for about nine months now, so it probably would be a good time to go back and try to reach out to the same folks that we surveyed."
The project had a first-year budget of $275,000, and the groups have secured funding for the program to continue for another year. That includes additional money from private fundraising and dollars contributed by 3CDC and DCI, which are in the process of merging their operations.