In Arkansas, Homeless People Can Make $9.25 Cleaning The Streets

It's helping unite the city and give the homeless a leg up.

An Arkansas city has found a clever way to employ the homeless and clean up the streets: by giving them jobs to pick up trash alongside the highway. 

Little Rock, Arkansas launched the program, called Bridge to Work, that pays homeless people $9.25 an hour to pick up trash around the state's capital. The program was so successful in its first year that Little Rock's mayor, Frank Scott Jr., said they are extending the program for another year.

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"We want to work with them on their next step," associate pastor Paul Atkins, who helps run the program, said about the city's homeless population during a board meeting. "There are a lot of barriers that our people experience to go from homelessness and panhandling to full-time work. There's a lot of steps in between."

Initially, the program was only going to last six months. Now it will run through September of 2020. 389 people have already joined the work crews, Mayor Scott Jr. said, and 2,056 bags have been filled with trash across 130 sites in the city. 

According to 12 News in Little Rock, the program has given homeless participants a sense of community, mental and physical health services, and even led to job interviews. In some cases, homeless participants have found their way into temporary housing, too. 

Next up, Atkins said, is continuing to build the program's sense of community. He wants volunteers to join the work crews so the homeless participants can feel a bond with other people in the community.

"To make the program bigger and better, we do need folks to walk with our friends on a one-on-one basis," Atkins said. "I hesitate to call it a mentor thing, cause you'll probably learn as much as you teach.

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