Wheels to Work Looks to Employ Panhandlers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- It's been two and a half years since Lance lost his job and became homeless.These days, he goes by Rooster and he makes most of his money flying a sign...you might know it better as panhandling.

"It's really good money," he says. "The first night I flew a sign. I made like 90 dollars in like two and a half hours."

With the money he makes Rooster can usually afford a hotel room and a hot shower. But his income hardly covers the occupational hazard of damaged pride.

"I don't want someone to feel sorry for me. I want to go out and earn my own money," Rooster admits.

But Rooster's days of flying signs might be over soon enough.

"Wheels to work, in essence offers jobs to panhandlers," says City Manager Greg Burris 

He explains the city's new Wheels to Work project is hoping to literally drive the number of panhandlers down.

"We're going to offer them a ride to the job center and find them employment," Burris says.

Mary Ann Rojas is the executive director at the career center.

"There are two options we're looking at with this program," she says.

She says once panhandlers are dropped off, those at the career center will either find them a day labor job or help them sustain long term employment.

"Training. If there is any type of training they'll need to get a job or keep a job," Rojas says.

Burris still anticipates it'll be about a month until the project's test period launches.

"It's a two month pilot project. At the end of two months we'll step back and say, ok is this working or not," says Burris.

"If the city's going to come up with a program like that....Then I'd be all for it," says Rooster.

He's ready to put in his notice and hang his sign up for good.

The idea of a job makes him smile. From behind it he says, "You learn there's more to humanity than you believe there is."


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