City Explains Financing Behind New Program to Hire Homeless

Following Wednesday's announcement by Mayor Michael Hancock of a new program called Denver Day Works, which aims to employ homeless individuals for three- to six-hour work shifts, some observers took to Twitter to question the program's financing.

Specifically, there were concerns about the $600-per-person cap (because of IRS rules) and the fact that only $100,000 of the total budget of $400,000 will go toward participants' wages.

Westword asked Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Smith to break down the numbers for us, and she provided the following response:

Denver Day Works is a supported employment program, which means more than just giving someone a job – it’s also ensuring participants are supported with the resources and understanding needed to help them achieve long term success.

The total contract value is $400,000 and, for the purposes of your request, can be broken down into two main parts:

Program Management:
Nearly half ($197,311) of the contract goes to program management. This includes six full- or part-time employees of Bayaud who do outreach work to locate participants, crew supervisors who work onsite with city supervisors to manage the work crews, benefits navigators who work with participants during the day to determine what other resources might be needed and work with them to provide those resources, and employment specialists who provide help with all sort of employment services from helping identify employment paths to getting someone job-ready. These roles are largely focused on serving the participants, helping them to get more than just a day’s pay through tailored case management, and are at the heart of what a supportive employment model needs to build the longer-term supports for participants.

Participant Benefit:
The remainder (approx. $200,000) goes toward the wages, benefits, and assistance for pilot participants. These include the daily compensation, transportation to and from work sites, clothing, personal protection equipment such as gloves or safety glasses, consumables (food), and other participant needs as well as a contingency allocation for additional participant benefits.

Keep in mind that this is a pilot program. Bayaud designed their model with a conservative estimate of participants, so we allotted additional funds to be able to flex and cover additional costs if program demand was greater than anticipated, such as what we’ve seen in the first two days. The target numbers are the minimum goals.

While the program is aimed at providing a same-day work opportunity, what we are ultimately looking to test in this pilot is whether this program is a way to connect with people who are unengaged in other services and help them take steps toward sustained self-sufficiency. We believe that people can achieve their full potential when we help them build a strong foundation to grow from. We believe Denver Day Works will be one part of that foundational work. 
Additionally, the program's website states that the original goal for the program was for seventy individuals to work more than one day. As Smith noted, it is not yet clear what the demand for the program will be. Westword will continue to report on it in the coming months.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker

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