The city has begun seeking public donations to support Portland Opportunity Crew, a program that puts panhandlers to work cleaning up parks and public spaces a few days a week.

Launched in May, the pilot program seeks to provide work experience to people asking for money at intersections throughout the city.

Social services staff visit the intersections several times a week, offering jobs to panhandlers. Participants are taken to a temporary employment agency to fill out paperwork before they can work. Workers are provided with breakfast and lunch, and are paid the city’s minimum wage of $10.68 an hour at the end of each day in the form of a prepaid debit card.

City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said the program has enrolled 10 individuals, who have collected 120 bags of trash.

The program received $44,000 in start-up money for wages, food, fuel for the city van and city staffing through a combination of $19,000 in federal grants and $25,000 from the sale of city land.

Now, private donations are being accepted online at the city’s website, or by texting “CREW” to 91999.

Additionally, the city said the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein will be using its digital sign on top of the Time & Temperature Building to promote the program.

The Portland Opportunity Crew, which is overseen by the city’s social services and parks divisions, will work through November. It has the capacity to hire up to five people each day. The city also is partnering with local companies to link participants with additional services, such as job training and employment support.

The Portland Opportunity Crew is modeled after similar programs in other cities such as Albuquerque, New Mexico and San Jose, California.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

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