Day Jobs program

Back to Issues Page

I support the creation of a Day Jobs program that would offer employment to homeless residents. My interest was inspired by hearing Selectboard member David Schoales speak briefly about it at a recent Selectboard meeting, and it fired my imagination. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I think it has a ton of potential.

In broad strokes, the town would identify opportunities for short-term work, and help connect interested people to those opportunities. The town would actively encourage local employers to find or create these opportunities. It would also actively work with the homeless community to find people interested in the program and help them prepare for their jobs. The town would work to bridge the gap between the short-term Day Jobs program and potential long-term employment, as well as providing information on other essentials: food, shelter, medical treatment, and counseling.

This would be a major project for the town to undertake, and I don’t have all the answers. The project would face plenty of challenges. The town’s legal liability would rank high on a list of challenges, as would budgeting for it. However, there are many encouraging examples. Denver instituted a day jobs program in 2016 and it was successful enough for them to move to expand it. San Diego instituted one in 2018. These are just two out of dozens of examples in major American cities alone.

Why a Day Jobs program?

Homelessness and panhandling are two intertwined issues that are constantly on the minds of all of Brattleboro’s residents. It’s a contentious topic. There are strong feelings on many sides. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that homeless people are often trapped in a vicious cycle: they suffer from extreme poverty, but that poverty makes it very hard for them to find work. Poverty has other consequences which tie into other issues. One example is that poverty makes people more vulnerable to drugs and criminality, which then begin their own cycles.

A Day Jobs program would be an escape route. The town, understanding how difficult it is to be trapped in poverty and homelessness, would be welcoming and understanding. A short-term job would provide a boost of income and a new entry on a resume. The Day Jobs workers would form relationships with the town staff and with their employers, hopefully leading to a long-term position. Counseling and medical treatment would help bridge the gap permanently.

This should be studied, and if at all possible, it should be implemented. I haven’t heard any better ideas yet.

Oscar Heller for Brattleboro Selectboard 2019