Little Rock, Arkansas, has approved a measure to continue investing in the city’s homeless population.
City council has extended Little Rock’s “Bridge to Work” program, which gives people experiencing homelessness a day of work. Program leaders also connect them to mental health services, job opportunities and more.
In the past six months, Bridge to Work, which started as an $80,000 pilot program, has paid more than 400 homeless community members $9.25 an hour to pick up debris around Little Rock.
Paul Atkins, a pastor with Canvas Community Church which organizes Bridge to Work, describes the program as “day’s work for a day’s pay and access to resources that will help them get to the next step to create the life that they want.”
Here’s how it works: A group of homeless people, accompanied by supervisors, discard of trash at either a site assigned by the city or at places that the program has found needs a cleanup.
Then, over lunch, a conversation is started among the workers about where they’d like to go next in life, and if there’s a way the program leaders can help them achieve their goals, Atkins says.
Bridge to Work provides access to other needs too, such as addiction treatment, mental health services or legal advice.
Some have found jobs as a result of participating, Atkins says.
Roneisha Foxworth says she’s benefited from the program, which assisted her in applying for jobs and getting a bus pass. She says the money she made from the program “helped a lot.”
“It helped me grow and be more responsible,” she says.
Although she hasn’t landed a full-time job yet, she says “a lot of doors opened” for her, making her feel optimistic about the future.
“I’m not gonna give up,” she says. “It’s still hard but it gets better day by day.”
Atkins realizes the barriers homeless people face can stall the job search, and is thankful the city council saw the program as a long-term process worth investing in. He says it’s going to take continuous “relational, loving care and work” and community-building to address individual needs.
For now, Foxworth and many other homeless people have “a community of support” to keep them encouraged, Atkins says, thanks to a strong network of people, shelters and organizations across the city.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.