City of Amarillo provides park cleaning jobs to homeless people through pilot program

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — On Monday, the City of Amarillo hosted an orientation for a pilot program aimed at helping homeless people to re-enter the workforce.

Ten clients from the city’s Coming Home program, which helps get chronically homeless people in housing, will be employed through the Peer Reintegration Employment Partnership (PREP) Academy.

“Once they’ve been in housing, we provide them with surrounding supports to make sure that they’re able to stay in housing,” said Jason Riddlespurger, the city’s director of community development. “They’ve been able to maintain housing, they’re doing really well, and this is kind of the next step. These are folks that have been interested in getting back in the workplace, they’ve had struggles in the past, and this is an opportunity for them to take that next step.”

Riddlespurger said during the first six weeks, Workforce Solutions Panhandle will provide their salary, as well as uniforms, during training.

Those ten employees will then become City of Amarillo employees for the rest of the year, working 15 to 20 hours a week to keep Amarillo Parks clean and sanitized.

“It’s more than just a job. It’s therapy. It’s something that also gives them the confidence of knowing, ‘Now I have work experience, I have a supervisor that now will refer me to other places,’ and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Kris Pirkle, who works for the Coming Home program.

Riddlespurger said, “It’s our hope that they’ll do really good at it, and that we could even potentially employ them full-time that they’ll move into some full-time positions. They may even move into positions outside of the city and maybe different employers throughout the city that might be looking for people. We’re going to help them with their interviewing and things of that nature so they can be successful with them, as well.”

According to Riddlespurger, the Amarillo City Council approved $250,000 in American Rescue Plan funding for the pilot program.

“I can say all day long, that I think this is going to be successful in that think that people’s lives are going to change, but we need to see the data, we need to see that it’s truly making a difference so we’re spending our money wisely and we’re being good stewards of the money that is handed to us,” said Riddlespurger.

He said the program is a partnership between the City of Amarillo and several other community partners. According to the city, Hillside Christian Church North Grand Campus will provide use of their church for training sessions and lunch for those in the program.

The city said Amarillo National Bank will also provide a free savings account for each person in the program, as well as financial literacy training.

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