A new program that is targeted to be launched by the end of this coming summer will help to provide members of Austin’s homeless community with both carts and backpacks filled with items such as water bottles and ice cream that they can sell throughout the downtown area, effectively transforming them into street vendors and enabling them to have a way to make a living.
The program, according to organizers, is designed to help decrease panhandling in the city by between 50% and 80%. Additionally, they anticipate that those who participate in the program could end up earning anywhere between $20 and $30 per hour.
One member of Austin’s District 9 Council has come out as being “100% supportive” of the initiative, stating that it can empower someone to essentially be their own business and interact with other citizens who will be able to benefit from a cold drink and/or snack in the hot weather.
It was further stated that the city of Austin has both food-sales and food-handling licensing regulations in place for good reasons; however, further discussions will likely be held with the proper representatives regarding this specific initiative.
One important aspect of this initiative is a partnership with the local First Baptist Church of Austin, whose Mobile Loaves and Fishes organization will establish a 40-foot shipping container in the surface parking lot located on the opposite side of Ninth Street that will be transformed into a home base for all of the vendors. Each vendor backpack and cart will feature branding for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, and it is hopeful that the program will end up obtaining enough success that will enable them to eventually expand further throughout the entire downtown area.
The initiative was introduced following the local government feeling increased pressure to address the growing problem related to homelessness, which resulted in the decision to open a new homeless shelter by the end of September.
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