Denver hires first longer-term employees through “Day Works” homelessness employment program

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Victor Martin Pacheco stands with a shovel at the launch of Denver Day Works. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) homeless; day labor; social work; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty;

Victor Martin Pacheco stands with a shovel at the launch of Denver Day Works. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The city of Denver is claiming its first successes in its widely discussed Denver Day Works program. Four people have been hired as "full-time seasonal employees" for the city's parks department, according to city officials.

The new employees will be working in Civic Center Park and Centennial Gardens, where they'll be planting trees, cleaning trash, removing snow, doing maintenance and more. You might recognize one of the people hired for a seasonal position, Danny Tims Jr., from Kevin Beaty's portrait:

Danny Tims Jr., who has lived in Civic Center Park for the last month and was hired by the city. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

All four people had worked day shifts with the new program, which is meant to be a "no barriers" way to get temporary work for people experiencing homelessness. The program has been so popular that it was running a waitlist of several weeks as of last month.

The idea is that after showing their skills in temporary shifts they can move to other employment with the city, as these four people were. They also could be connected to other private or nonprofit sector jobs through Bayaud Enterprises, the local nonprofit running the program.

The seasonal workers will be making about $11 an hour, on par with other city seasonal workers, according to parks spokeswoman Cyndi Karvaski. They underwent basic background checks to ensure they could be trusted in public spaces for the longer-term jobs, according to parks staff.

The city also works to connect people participating with social services. Tims, for example, was able to get a temporary housing voucher, and a city employee informally spotted him $25 to a pay an application fee. He's already working 40 hours a week for the city.

"I was just homeless last week. Now I got a position with the city parks and recreation department?" he said. "You've got to be kidding me."

On Thursday, he and others in his crew were working to spread new, safer material around a playground at Fuller Park. They're taking jobs that otherwise might have gone unfilled - last year, for example, the parks department was short about 60 seasonal workers, according to deputy parks director Scott Gilmore.

"We can't fill positions," he said. The participants "can be an asset to the city, but we're also providing them a way back into society."

Denver Day Works so far:

The program's participants so far have worked 850 hours in the single-day shifts and earned close to $11,000, according to the city. The program also aims to connect them with supportive services, such as housing help and mental health counseling as necessary.

For an explanation of how the program works, read our earlier coverage. Eventually, Denver wants 49 people or more to find permanent work through Denver Day Works.

Of course, even a wildly successful program won't compare to the scale of the homelessness issue. More than 10,000 people may be homeless in Colorado right now.

If it's successful, the city may expand the day works "pilot program" in the future.

Correction: This story earlier stated that one person was hired into a permanent position, due to a misstatement by a city employee. In fact, all four were hired to seasonal but full-time positions.

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