TUCSON, AZ. - People who are homeless are about to get jobs cleaning up Tucson, Arizona, streets.
The program has been funded by $25,000 from the City of Tucson and $25,000 from Pima County. Workers will be paid minimum wage for a five-hour shift and receive cash at the end of the day. They will start by landscaping and cleaning neighborhood traffic circles.
Thomas Litwicki is the CEO of Old Pueblo Community Services. His organization is helping organize and take care of the administration. He said people will be provided with food, clothing, shelter and health screenings.
“We will expose them to a wide array of services,” he said. “And our intention is that over a period of time doing this, people will say, ‘Why should I be in the shelter? Or why should I be on the streets?’”
The workers will be picked up at Salvation Army and Primavera homeless shelters two days a week starting Dec. 6. Litwicki does not know if they will try to regularly use the same people.
“I could certainly make arguments for getting a group of folks and having them actually earn more money over a short period of time to help them get into housing,” he said. “Or it may be best to spread it out. And I don't think we know yet.”
Steven Trejo said he has been homeless the past 12 years. He said he cannot stay in shelters because of his dog. Many other homeless people avoid shelters because of shelter schedules and policies.
“[The program] is going to help the people in the shelters,” Trejo said. “That's not going to help us out here.”
Trejo said he has been trying to submit all the paperwork to find housing, but he is still waiting.
“Right now at this time in my life I’m not using drugs. I’m just homeless,” he said. “And when push comes to shove I don't know whose problems it is to help me get off the streets.”
Litwicki said he has gotten more financial commitments from Southwest Gas, Cox Communications and HSL Properties. He is hoping the program will expand to four days a week in 2017.
The funding pays for the wages of the work crews. The program would be much more expensive if the nonprofits were not donating their services.