For the last three years, Denver has provided job opportunities to help people living on the streets find work and a way to get their lives back on track — a program unlikely to set sail in 2020.
Denver Day Works started as a pilot in November 2016 through a partnership between several city agencies, including the Human Services department, and provides low- to no-barrier work experience for people facing homelessness, while also connecting participants to resources like food and shelter.
The city is considering a roughly $1 million contract extension through the end of next year with Bayaud Enterprises, which runs the work program, for a new contract total of about $2.4 million. The program currently has a roughly six-week waitlist for services, and funds are intended to broaden the availability of work experiences and reduce the wait time for those who are homeless and in need of a job.
“I get more calls to share information with folks about this program from Denver than any other policy or [program] we have in place,” Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech said during a council safety committee meeting on Dec. 18, when the contract amendment was advanced to the full council to be heard early next year.
Mayor Michael Hancock developed Denver Day Works after hearing about a similar effort in Albuquerque. The program was initiated with a $400,000 budget, half of which covered Bayaud’s administrative costs, and funds were later bumped to nearly $700,000 the following year.
Since the program’s inception through October 2019, more than 360 people in need have taken advantage of employment opportunities, including street cleanups, landscaping and general maintenance.
Nearly 170 Denver Day Works participants have achieved job placement outside of the program and more than 40 received support that led to housing, according to spokesman Marcus Ritosa. Roughly 60% of all job placements have lasted at least three months, and participants have earned approximately $400,000 in wages and benefits.
The program currently offers people age 18 and older six-hour workdays, once weekly for 10 weeks, and cash earnings of $75.25 at the end of every shift. Participants receive breakfast and lunch each workday, an RTD bus ticket, behavioral health referrals, job readiness assessments and individualized employment plans.
In 2016, the work program began at Civic Center Park, but due to its success, has since expanded its work sites to include locations such as the city’s Human Services department, the public library, Denver Public Works, Denver Parks and Recreation and the city’s Elections Division.
This past year, additional city work sites were developed to include the Central Platte and Roslyn campuses, as well as the Richard T. Castro Human Services Center. Work sites now exist outside of city agencies as well, such as Denver University and the RiNo business improvement district. These additional work site options are aimed at providing program participants with more work hours, increased pay in some cases, higher skills development and more connections to full-time jobs.
In 2020, one of the main goals is to secure 143 new job placements, equating to roughly 37,000 work hours.
“This is clearly something that’s a really appreciated model nationally,” Kniech said.