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Indy pilot program sees success employing Hoosiers facing employment barriers

Hiring Hoosiers
Posted: 6:00 AM, Jul 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-26 09:40:32-04
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Hiring Hoosiers is an initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. Learn more about Hiring Hoosiers and see new stories weekdays at 6 a.m. on RTV6.

INDIANAPOLIS — Hiring Hoosiers is RTV6's initiative to break down employment barriers and provide solutions for Hoosiers looking to work. The City of Indianapolis is seeing positive results from a pilot program aiming to do just that.

David Mitchell spent the last year homeless and unemployed. It is not that he did not want to work, he just could not secure a job.

"I was applying, just nobody was calling back," Mitchell said. "And of course I didn't have a phone which was another barrier, I just had to rely on email which is tough getting to check it every day."

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Everything changed for the 49-year-old when he learned about Pathway to Employment, the city's pilot program to address the downtown panhandling issues by connecting those residents with employment opportunities and job training. The job is picking up litter and waste across the city.

"It was getting close to a year and then once this door opened, I took the opportunity and I feel blessed to have a job," Mitchell said.

It was the first step Mitchell needed because after only a few weeks of participating in the city's program, he landed a full-time position at Recycle Force.

"There are folks that really have barriers at the entry of the very beginning of that continuum and this is one tool that might help break down that barrier," Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor of community development for the City of Indianapolis, said. "This is the any job, foot in the door to get to the better job and then to the career."

While Pathway to Employment gets a foot in the door for Hoosiers facing employment barriers, this program also fulfills a city need of litter control.

"It certainly hits the workforce development issue," Bennett said. "For the city, it also solves a second problem which is litter and we see litter across the city in intersections, in the right of way downtown. This time of year litter requests for pick up are among the highest volume calls to the Mayor's Action Center. So we can solve a complaint of residents while at the same time providing workforce opportunities for people who need them."

To make this program function, the city partnered with non-profits including Keys to Work, an alternative staffing organization to help unemployed Hoosiers that face challenging barriers like homelessness, low income, and criminal histories, get that first job.

LEARN MORE | Keys to Work

"People want to work," Glenn Johnson, executive director of business development at Keys to Work, said. "There is a lot of different things that go on in life and what we have found here is that getting them a job one, and housing two, or flipped either way, it creates a huge level of comfort for that individual and it gives them a sense of pride and a sense of hope to continue to work for their families and the folks that are around them."

The job pays $10 an hour. Pathway to Employment is in its second month and it has connected 21 participants to daily jobs for about 2,000 work hours.

"For one, it's employable skills," Johnson said. "They are showing up to work every day from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., like clockwork. They are interacting with different folks from all walks of life. They are cleaning up the city, they are dealing with illegal dumping and illegal waste which is, we offer hazardous material certifications here and a few of those individuals are currently enrolled in that certification program. But they are learning how to function as ready to work employees and that is a big part of who we are."

Pathway to Employment is also providing a re-connection for the people who have felt disconnected, like Mitchell, who is now getting his life back on a path that makes him feel whole.

"It was just getting someone to call me back, just waiting, it seemed like forever and when it did, it blessed my life," Mitchell said. "In three weeks to a month I will be moving out of Wheeler Mission into my own apartment, it is uplifting, puts me in a good spirit."

Keys to Work ensures that each individual has all the necessary documentation needed before begin assigned to work for the day. Program participants check into at the Keys to Work office and then receive transportation to and from the work site each day.

Pathway to Employment is funded by the City of Indianapolis through the end of September and there is a wait list of dozens of people wanting to participate. Bennett says they will discuss building the program into the 2020 city budget to keep it going if they continue to see the success they have so far this summer.

Those looking for employment after the program ends will be connected to other jobs through Keys to Work.