- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Two months after the idea was first introduced to leaders in Springfield, Missouri, the city’s new plan to help connect panhandlers to job opportunities and other resources is taking shape.

Two informational meetings were held May 22 for volunteers to help with the eight-week pilot program Wheels to Work, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/2rpYSMl) reported.

The program was created by the city and partner organizations like the Council of Churches, Crosslines and One Door, in response to an increased number of complaints about people who stand by busy roads asking for food and money.

Buses will stop at six target intersections to pick up panhandlers who then have the opportunity to shower, eat a hot meal, do laundry and search for employment. The six intersections were identified by Springfield police as those that frequently see panhandling activity.

Springfield resident David Kesterson, who used to be homeless for several years, attended the meeting and said he’d like to drive one of the two retired City Utilities buses that were donated to the effort.

“They’re making some effort,” he said. “More than they have in the past.”

All volunteers will be required to register with the Council of Churches, consent to a background check and abide by anti-discrimination and confidentiality policies.

Adam Bodendieck with One Door, who coached prospective volunteers on how to safely and appropriately approach panhandlers, said Wheels to Work is a “work-readiness program” and hopes it has the potential to lead people to more long-term employment.

The city hopes to start the program in June.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com


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