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Denver Day Works program helps 110 people who were experiencing an episode of homelessness

The Denver Day Works program helped 110 people who were experiencing an episode of homelessness and, in most cases, living on the streets obtain permanent work during its pilot year. Building on these first year success, the city today announced expansion plans for the program in 2018 and released the first-year achievements of the pilot and results of a recent evaluation by the University of Colorado Denver.

“Denver Day Works started with the simple idea of providing those experiencing homelessness, regardless of their background, the opportunity to work, earn some income and connect into a network of resources designed to help them improve their well-being,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “In its first year, Denver Day works connected 110 people to permanent jobs and more than a dozen to housing. They‘ve worked hard and given back to our community, and as we expand the program in 2018, we can’t wait to provide this opportunity to more and more people so more lives can get back on track.”

In its first year of operation (November 1, 2016 – October 31, 2017), Denver Day Works successfully provided more than 10,000 hours of work experience to 284 people experiencing homelessness.

  • 462 people were recruited for the program – original goal: 350
  • 284 participated in a day’s work – original goal: 150
  • Approximately 274 participants stayed with the program longer than the initial workday – original goal: 75 people
  • 110 people achieved permanent employment – original goal: 49
  • 57 people so far have maintained their employment – original goal: 30

The program provides transportation to and from worksites and work equipment, as well as resource navigation. Program staff work one-on-one with individuals to identify and provide essential resources for their overall well-being. Through this approach, 13 people who were experiencing homelessness were connected to housing.

“I’m so proud of all that these first Denver Day Works pilot participants have achieved, and of the individualized care this program has been able to provide each of them as they took the next steps toward their goals,” said Denver Human Services Executive Director Don Mares. “The transformation of people in this program has been remarkable, meaningful and lasting. In 2018, we’re gearing up to add more and more diverse worksites to support hundreds more through Denver Day Works one work day and one step at a time.”

A program evaluation completed by the University of Colorado Denver Center on Network Science after the third quarter of the pilot found that response from employers and neighborhoods to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with 99 employers participating and 74 percent of them hiring program participants. Partner employers include King Soopers, Hotel Teatro, Napa Auto Parts, Goodwill, Revolution Foods, Denver Zoo, Bayaud Enterprises and the City and County of Denver itself, which to date has hired 15 Denver Day Workers. The evaluation noted the highly successful collaboration between multiple city agencies and community partners and a positive rating by nearly 100 percent of the participants.

“What’s been most rewarding about this is that I’ve been given this opportunity,” said Regina, a participant. “It makes me feel good that I was chosen to work. I was picked for this job.”

The evaluation made three key recommendations:

  • Increase the program budget to support expanding the program’s number of work days and diversity of worksites.
  • Develop an employee-supported transition component between Denver Day Works and full-time employment.
  • Engage in a participatory strategy session to determine a system of governance for the Denver Day Works program.

In alignment with the evaluation’s recommendations, plans for 2018 include an expansion from three to five days per week, increasing and diversifying the participant base, and diversifying and increasing worksites. A copy of the pilot program evaluation and year one results are attached to this release.

The pilot program was funded with $400,000 from Denver Human Services, Denver’s Road Home, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works. In 2018, Mayor Hancock boosted the program budget to a projected $696,300 to allow for expansion of the program to serve more people. Starting in February, the program will expand to four days a week with a goal of expanding to five days a week later in 2018. An important aspect of the program is the individual one-on-one time that Denver Day Works program staff from Bayaud Enterprises spend with each person. As the program expands, close observation will be given to ensuring that the individualized approach to each participant is maintained.

“We have been providing supported employment for decades and know the model truly works,” said David Henninger, CEO of Bayaud Enterprises. “What makes this program different is our ability to reach people right where they are, no matter their history, and to lend support immediately, and to collaborate with so many partners across the city.”

Denver Day Works is a low- to no-barrier work program that provides people without homes the opportunity to earn a days’ pay at city and private work sites and connects them to other resources to help them find housing and overall wellbeing. Denver Day Works is a collaboration between Denver Human Services, Denver Parks & Recreation, Denver Public Works and Denver’s Road Home, and is operated by Bayaud Enterprises. The program worksites include Denver Parks & Recreation, Denver Public Works locations, the Denver Public Library, Denver Elections Division, Bayaud Laundry Truck, Denver Botanic Gardens, and, a special worksite with the RiNO Arts District for the annual Crush event. Participants learned grounds keeping and maintenance trades among other skills, and were able to move on to permanent employment with the support and guidance of program staff. Once connected to employment, the program continues to provide support to participants for a year.