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Tempe Wants To Put City's Homeless To Work

Tempe wants to help the city’s homeless by giving them a job, a place to live and social services for six months.

The proposed pilot program, Tempe Works, would hire two homeless individuals to work part time in the Public Works Department.

“It’s not just a day-worker program, but it provides additional wraparound services as well, so it puts people on a path to self-sufficiency that we think is going to be significant and we’re very proud of,” said Tempe council member Randy Keating, who was inspired after hearing about a similar program in New Mexico.

RELATED: Homeless In Plain Sight, a five-part series in which KJZZ hopes to start a community conversation about the people, programs and potential solutions to homelessness in the Phoenix area.

Tempe staff said the program is the first of its kind in the state. Tucson has a homeless day-worker program, but it does not include the wraparound services Tempe intends to offer.

Tempe plans to partner with the Tempe Community Action Agency and Corporate Job Bank. Money for housing and utilities, an estimated $12,000 per person, would come from the Tempe Housing Trust Fund. Tempe Works would use existing city funds and not require new spending.

“More than 50 percent of the men and women who come into our shelter program became homeless due to economic reasons, job loss or eviction,” said  Deborah Arteaga, the executive director of the Tempe Community Action Agency. “Helping them get back connected to the workforce as quickly as possible is paramount to helping end homelessness.”

Participants would start out working in the solid waste department, washing and building garbage containers and helping with compost.

“They’ll be learning a whole different skill set,” said Tony Miano, Tempe’s Deputy Public Works Director for Field Operations.

After six months, successful participants would be able to apply for other city of Tempe jobs.

The council will vote on the program Thursday. If approved, it would begin by the end of the year.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.