Mayor's initiative offers work to homeless - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mayor's initiative offers work to homeless

Mayor Jim Strickland (Source: WMC Action News 5) Mayor Jim Strickland (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the Hospitality HUB’s new initiative plans to uplift homeless men and women by providing work opportunities to clean up blight and litter in the city.

Strickland’s office said the Hospitality HUB, which is a non-profit hospitality, counseling, and resource center for homeless persons, will orchestrate the project.

“In Memphis, we must do everything we can to make sure every single member of our community has the opportunity to lift themselves up from their circumstances in search of a better life,” Strickland said. “This initiative, which we’ve been working on since very early in my administration, is a major step toward that. I thank the Hospitality Hub for administering the program.”

The initiative will provide transportation for job-seeking panhandlers to cleanup blighted sites twice a week. This will help reduce blight throughout the city, according to Strickland’s office.

For those who are homeless, like Michael Birdsong, this comes as a welcomed opportunity.

"It's been rough," Birdsong said. "People see me sitting out here, and they don't say OK, come cut my yard or come do this, or come do that. They just want to hand me change and stuff like this."

Birdsong has a criminal history and no permanent address. He said that makes it harder to find even the odd jobs, and nearly impossible to find a steady job.

The new program will give jobs to some of the more than 2,000 homeless individuals in Memphis. 

"They get a free meal, they get $9 an hour, and they help clean up the city, litter, and blight," Strickland said.

For those like Birdsong, it sounds like what he needs.

"I mean, yeah, you said free lunch too? And a ride to work? Yeah, that sounds, sounds good," he said.

The first year of the program is funded with $140,000 in taxpayer funds, budgeted to the Public Works Department. But, Strickland hopes private donors will take the city's place funding it in the future.

For some, this is just not enough to help the homeless problem.

Brad Watkins heads up the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. 

"It's a 10-foot plank over a 20-foot hole," Watkins said.

He said if the city is serious about jobs, they should set aside jobs for homeless people in all their work contracts.

"If you want to talk about jobs, then let's talk about real living wage jobs where people could afford to get out of poverty," Watkins said. "Now, you're just providing income for people who are still going to be on the streets."

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