Program offering work to Syracuse panhandlers to begin this spring

Feb 5, 2019

Panhandlers in central New York will soon have a chance at a job as a day laborer, instead of asking drivers for spare change. In My Father’s Kitchen won the contract to run the Hire Ground program that is expected to begin this spring.

The idea is to offer panhandlers a chance to make money by working at a job, instead of asking for money from strangers. While on that job, John Tumino of In My Father’s Kitchen, said the most important thing will be establishing relationships, and offering resources if they’re needed.

"We could sit with you and a case manager and ask you 'What's going on right now?," said Tomino. "And if they have an addiction and are going through some kind of withdrawal, we could stop for them and get them to a detox unit, or get them to Helio Health, or get them to a doctor if they’re having a mental health breakdown, on the moment, on the spot.

Onondaga County has come up with the initial $200,000 that will pay for a new van and staff.  The van will head out three days a week, and take up to nine individuals to day labor jobs like cleaning up litter with the county, the city of Syracuse or the private sector. 

Tumino, who, with his wife, has been operating a homeless outreach program in Syracuse for the past eight years, said ideally this program could be the gateway to other community resources, like job training, and an end to panhandling.

"I know we're going to give them an alternative and an option by doing day labor, and helping them maybe think about not panhandling and actually working for five hours and getting some money at the end of the day in their pocket and giving them dignity and value in the middle of their brokenness and suffering," said Tomino.

The program is expected to begin May 1.