PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia has expanded an effort to reduce panhandling by offering low-barrier employment, and dozens of people are lining up every morning for a chance to get one of the jobs. The expansion has doubled the number of jobs and raised the program’s goals.
The jobs are awarded by lottery Monday through Thursday mornings in Love Park.
Ten people are selected to work with Mural Arts Philadelphia in a continuation of a pilot project that started in April and has already completed a major project in Suburban Station.
Another ten people are now being selected for jobs with the city’s Community Life Improvement Programs, or CLIP, cleaning lots and removing graffiti.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said CLIP director Tom Conway. “We give them something to do, they get a couple dollars and then also we clean up the city of Philadelphia.”
The job pays $50 in cash on the spot when the morning’s work is over.
“It helps you out a lot, this stuff, put a couple dollars in your pocket,” said Daniel, as he swept debris from a sidewalk in Port Richmond.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing, getting the city clean. So I think it’s a great job,” added Thomas, who was enjoying his first day on the job after several tries.
Carlton Addison has been picked three times for the CLIP program, now in its third week.
“It gets me out of the shelter and doing something positive,” he said.
The program also offers support services, connections to housing and rehab for those who want it.
Homeless Services director Liz Hersh has even bigger ambitions for the program in the long term. She hopes these low-barrier jobs that require no applications, no drug tests and no background checks will lead to permanent ones.
Michael Belo is already one success story. In April and May, he lined up daily for a shot at a job working on a mural in Suburban Station. On Tuesday morning, he was calling out the numbers for the Love Park lottery, a full-time employee of Mural Arts.
Hersh believes more can be helped into full-time employment.
“They can work their way up into getting their ID, overcoming those tough barriers, those tough questions about background and build from that strong desire to work,” she said.
Her next goal is to get private employers into the mix to continue expanding the program.