Officials in Little Rock, Arkansas, might be on to something. In April 2019, the city launched its Bridge to Work program, paying homeless people $9.25 an hour to pick up litter off city streets.
Paul Atkins is a Pastor at the Canvas Community Church in Little Rock, and he’s been impressed with how successful the program has been so far. Atkins said 380 people have worked through the program, receiving paychecks and mental health and medical services. Some have even landed job interviews.
Atkins said, “We want to work with them on their next step. There are a lot of barriers that our people experience to go from homelessness and panhandling to full-time work. There’s a lot of steps in between.”
The people in the program work in groups of eight, but they usually leave one space open in case they encounter a panhandler or other homeless person who wants to join up and work with them.
One of the team leaders in the program, Felecia Cooks, was initially worried it wouldn’t be entirely successful. She said:
“When I first started, from Day One, I couldn’t catch the vision, nor could I travel the journey. But, you know, we’ve taken out over 400-and-something persons. And let me tell you, that has been the most exciting thing that I’ve done in my life. The energy, just the positive (energy), the vision that Canvas Community Church has. You know, it’s just wonderful.
The program was only supposed to last six months, but Little Rock’s mayor, Frank Scott Jr., said he will draft a resolution to extend the program through the end of September 2020 because it has been such a success.
Great idea! I’d like to see this in other cities across the country!