Investment of taxpayer dollars helps homeless land full-time jobs

DENVER -- Regina Pizarro said her life used to be in a downward spiral. She was recently homeless while fighting against an addiction to alcohol after weaning herself off of heroin and crack cocaine.

“I lost my grandson to social services because of the alcohol," Pizarro told FOX31.

But Pizarro says her addictions are now behind her thanks to an investment of Denver taxpayer dollars to find Denver homeless people full-time jobs. More than 100 participants of the Denver Day Works program have now landed full-time jobs, according to city leaders. The program started in November of 2016.

The program offers day labor work. It is operated by private contractor Bayaud Enterprises. Public money pays the city’s homeless $12 an hour to help with various city services.

“It was shoving mulch with a pitchfork and a shovel," Pizarro explained. "I didn’t care. I was over there shoveling it real hard.”

For Pizarro, shoveling mulch was much better than the unsavory world of homelessness.

“I was in the streets sleeping in the parking lot," Pizarro said. "I’d wake up grouchy and upset and embarrassed and ashamed.”

Those feelings vanished after Pizarro started her Denver Day Works journey. She was required to work for her money and learn how to land a fulltime gig. Pizarro's work paid off. She told FOX31 she starts a new job on Monday in the private sector. She will be working at a customer service call center making more than minimum wage. She’s no longer homeless.

The program she credits for her hand up cost Denver taxpayers $400,000 in its first year. Denver officials said a total of 284 people have taken part in the program. Nearly half of the $400,000 went to program management, according to the city. Program management includes outreach, work supervisors and advocates who helped clients find full-time jobs.

The program has been renewed for a second year. It is expanding with a budget just shy of $700,000. There’s currently a wait list to be accepted into the program.

Administrators said Denver is unique with its program. Leaders in other cities across the country are interested in learning how the program in Denver will benefit the city overall, according to a program manager.