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Pilot Project In Tacoma, Washington Will Pay Homeless To Clean Up The City

Getting back on your feet after a hardship is tough for anyone. But for those experiencing homelessness, the climb can seem insurmountable. In so many ways, the deck is stacked against you, and without several helping hands with things like food, personal hygiene, clothing, and more stable shelter, that climb back is indeed insurmountable.

Those experiencing homelessness in Tacoma, Washington will have another option to help them get back on their feet as well, as the city looks to provide a helping hand to its homeless population in what appears to be a big win-win.

Tacoma City Councilman Robert Thoms thinks his city could use some beautifying — which is also an opportunity for the city's homeless.

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Thoms is behind a pilot project in connection with homeless advocacy group Valeo Vocation that will help beautify the city while also creating jobs for one of the most vulnerable populations.

The HIRE (Helping Individuals Reintegrate into Employment) program will see homeless people in Tacoma offered work on jobs like cleaning up trash and landscaping in city parks. This would provide those who want to work with some job skills and cash, while also sprucing up streets that are reportedly in need of some attention.

For Thoms, the HIRE program is all about providing a way forward for people experiencing homelessness.

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"Instead of other programs that are done to homeless people, this is one being done by and for homeless people," he told MyNorthwest.

"It’s to build that sort of internal pride that you did something yourself, and that you got rewarded for it in the form of what people need," Thoms added to KOMO News. "And that’s resources."

Those already involved in the program are singing its praises so far.

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"For this program I think people see us, and (we) look, like actual workers," Parker Wilson (not pictured) told The News Tribune. "It’s very beneficial. I just feel people need to know that homeless people want to improve their lives."

"I want to be more outdoors, and I enjoy being outdoors. I like to be around people," Christy Wells (not pictured) added. "I don’t like being cooped up in the little place. It's helping me and others."

Tacoma has set aside $60,000 for the pilot project, which will be used to pay the $13.50 minimum wage the workers will receive.

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In the program, participants will be able to work up to 20 hours a week, spread over four days a week.

And although the HIRE program is slated to run through December, Thoms says he hopes to blow through that budget quickly. "The best case scenario to me is that we have more people than we can afford subscribing to the program," he told MyNorthwest.

If successful, he's hoping the city will fund the program for another six months to three years.

Already, hopes are high for the HIRE program.

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Richard Madison, community outreach and special projects coordinator for Metro Parks Tacoma, told The News Tribune that some of the workers might have a future doing landscape work for the city on a more permanent basis.

"We hope this turns into a long-term opportunity," he said.

Thoms also feels the program has the potential to spread far and wide, and he informed KOMO News that the Puyallup Tribe offered to help fund the program, and other companies have expressed interest in hiring people experiencing homelessness.

h/t: The News Tribune, MyNorthwest, KOMO News

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