Denver Found an Amazing Way to Connect Homeless People With JobsJan 30, 2018
How can a homeless person get his life back together after living for so many years on the streets? If you’ve ever seen the movie The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith, you may remember how difficult it was for the middle-aged protagonist of the story to get a job when he had no place to shower or lay his head for the night.
Unfortunately for many down-on-their luck homeless citizens, life doesn’t always have a happy ending like in the movies. After losing his employment due to the recession, Denver resident Scott McIntosh’s moral and energy were at an all-time low. He ended up homeless for quite a few years and wasn’t able to find a steady job… until now.
Day Labor for the Homeless
In November 2016, the city of Denver began an initiative that gave homeless people like Scott the opportunity to do short-term work for the city, paying them over $12 per hour. To get a job, participants simply had to show up—no proof of residence or background checks required.
Throughout 2017, over 284 people worked planting trees, mulching flower beds, replacing lights, and other city jobs. They could choose between 3 and 6 hour shifts, and lunch was included free of charge. The result? Almost 40% of the men and women involved were able to get permanent jobs.
The program, called Denver Day Works, was considered a great success. Last year, some hopefuls had to wait up to eight weeks for a spot. Mayor Michael Hancock announced that it would expand in 2018, adding more work shifts to keep up with high demand. Instead of just three days, Denver Day Works will offer labor opportunities 5 days a week in 2018. The program will continue to offer financial counseling services and connect participants to public assistance programs and housing providers, completely free of charge.
Helping the Homeless Hold Steady Jobs
Although results were largely positive, Denver officials plan to implement a few changes to make the program better this year. They want to provide training that will help more workers transition from part-time gigs to full-time employment. After all, showing up for a day or two is one thing, but holding a steady job is quite another. Homeless people often struggle to keep up with the demands of employment when they still have no permanent residence.
Denver Day Works also plans to offer a larger variety of jobs this year. They hope to include lines of work that might better suit women, minorities, and the disabled. Last year’s budget for the program, $400,000, will increase to $696,300 for 2018.
More Than Just a Paycheck
Denver’s program has done more than just provide the homeless with the means to make a living— it has given them a renewed purpose for living. In Scott McIntosh’s words, “The biggest thing they’ve done for me is to build my moral; to give me hope for the future. And I think a lot of other people will experience the same thing if they’re in my position.”
Regina Pizarro, another Denver Day Works participant, now works at the Denver Elections Division, and is no longer homeless. “I feel a lot better about myself,” she said. “This is a city job, a job of trust.” She is grateful for the program and has decided that she wants to get her life back on track. “I know that them helping me is not going to be a waste of time,” she added. Like Scott and Regina, many other Denver residents were able get off the streets this year, and hopefully many more will do the same. Check out more of their stories here: