In February 2016 at Calvary Episcopal Church, the Rev. Chris Girata and the Rev. Eyleen Farmer held two meetings called Homeless Summits. Mayors, police management, government officials, private business leaders, and many agency directors gathered to learn about and explore a method used in Albuquerque to help those in need and to consider initiating a similar program in Memphis. Our goal was to find a way to help decrease panhandling, eliminate blight, introduce services to help meet panhandlers’ needs, and pay our poor neighbors a living wage for a day’s work.
Thanks to many stakeholders, the Hospitality HUB (whose mission is connecting individuals with the resources they need to begin their journey out of homelessness) has secured the bulk of this year's funding for Work Local (formerly known as Willing to Work).
Starting this fall, the Hospitality HUB will use a van to locate panhandlers in the downtown and midtown areas, within the Parkways. They will start two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, picking up ten men and women who stand on the side of the road with signs saying "Hungry." The van will take them to work at local businesses where the Hospitality HUB will pay the workers $9/hour for five hours of work, and the local business will provide lunch. Public Works will provide the job sites and tools to clean up blight, and the Hospitality HUB will secure a night’s housing for men at the Memphis Union Mission and for women in available locations.
The Hospitality HUB will encourage Work Local participants to access their case management opportunities so they can meet panhandlers' needs. Besides the cleanup of blighted areas, Work Local’s long-range benefit to Memphis is to give the participants a chance to change their lives by offering them another, a better, option. Join us in supporting this exciting endeavor.