Putting panhandlers to work worth a try

OK, panhandling is not Lexington’s biggest problem and barely even registers on the scale of global concerns.

But sign-wielding beggars perched along high-traffic roads and at intersections put themselves at risk and create hazards for others by distracting drivers who need all their attention for texting. (Just kidding. Do not text and drive; it’s as dangerous as driving drunk.)

The city’s newly announced approach of offering panhandlers an alternative way to collect money — by working — is worth a try.

Beginning soon, a city-donated van will make the rounds, offering panhandlers and homeless people a lift to job sites where they can earn $9 an hour.

Modeled after a program in Albuquerque, N.M., the partnership between city government and the New Life Day Center will initially be funded with $50,000 from the city with hopes of attracting private donations to keep it going.

The recent noticeable increase in panhandling followed a state Supreme Court ruling in February striking down Lexington’s ban on public panhandling as a violation of First Amendment free speech rights.

Instead of giving change to panhandlers, Mayor Jim Gray suggests giving to LexGive.com, which will help support the jobs van and hopes to pay for the program. The United Way’s 2-1-1 program is administering LexGive and offers free resource referral to those needing help.