Hey, it turns out that homeless Americans very much want work if they can get it, and giving them jobs is a good thing.
In the first year after the program’s launch in November 2016, Denver Human Services says 284 people worked at least a day — with all but 10 sticking around longer — performing landscaping duties in parks, helping out at the Denver Elections Division, aiding public-works crews and other job assignments.Of those participants, Maes was among 110 who found full-time work, with 15 landing permanent or project-based city jobs and the rest finding work with dozens of outside private and public employers.
There’s a notion here in this country that people who have been thrown out of their homes are somehow “damaged goods” or just really, really want to sleep in dangerous conditions in bitter weather for reasons unfathomable to the rest of us. But being homeless means you can’t afford a home. Perhaps you lost a job; perhaps one single medical expense bankrupted you, decimating your credit, and now landlords won’t give you the time of day. There but for the grace of Elvis goes you or I or the man on television with the spray-on tan and a chip on his shoulder.
The Denver program pays $12+ per hour to do labor the city needs done while helping to link those workers with other public assistance programs. We tend to go to great lengths to avoid doing the simplest possible things for those in need; perhaps we might do better not doing that. If the homeless have a place to stay, to shower, and to collect mail, they can far more easily get jobs. If we can detach medical expenses from so consistently causing financial ruin, we can stop Americans from losing homes to begin with. If American children are suffering from lack of food, perhaps we can just feed them without giving long speeches about how they are drains on society born to failed parents.
A crazy idea, but it seems to work better than the alternatives every time we try it.