Phoenix Rescue Mission and the city of Glendale recently surpassed the one-year mark of the launch of Glendale Works, an integrated workforce development program aimed at reducing homelessness in Glendale by providing homeless individuals day work cleaning city property.

The public-private collaboration set out to address the recent rise in certain segments of the homeless population, and according to data gathered by Phoenix Rescue Mission, the program has been successful in reducing homelessness among the chronic and unsheltered homeless populations.

“We’ve connected more than 250 panhandlers and homeless individuals with services designed to end their cycle of homelessness,” Nathan Smith, Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Director of Community Engagement, said. “Many participants have been placed in long-term recovery programs and housing, while others have found stable work and have lifted themselves out of their situation.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s point-in-time count data, the number of unsheltered or chronically homeless people in Glendale rose 290 percent from 2011 to 2018 – nearly double the rate of Maricopa County as a whole. 

The uptick caused a surge of homeless camps and panhandlers, which was putting the city at risk of increased homeless-related issues, including property damage, trash buildup and health and safety concerns.

“With programs like Glendale Works, which specifically targets the rising unsheltered and chronically homeless populations, we fully expect future point-in-time counts in Glendale to show a decline in these populations, ultimately leading to less property damage and trash buildup and improved health and safety throughout the community.” 

Glendale Works is designed to locate homeless individuals, pick them up from a set location and give them the opportunity to earn real wages and connect with services. The participants work with Phoenix Rescue Mission and the city’s Parks Division to conduct beautification projects – removing trash and performing landscaping duties in city parks, trails and washes.    

“We’ve spent the past year refining our Will Work program, which is the foundation of Glendale Works and can be scaled for any city, no matter the city’s size or situation,” Smith said. “Now that we’ve gathered more than a year’s worth of hard data backing up our initial expectations, we know the Will Work program will provide similar results in any urban environment.”

Phoenix Rescue Mission is responsible for engaging potential participants to perform the work, which includes five-hour work shifts for a daily cash rate of $55. After their shift, program participants receive a meal and transportation. Subsequently, participants who are interested in changing their life situation can connect with a Phoenix Rescue Mission case manager who will work with them to receive behavioral health services, job preparedness training, healthcare, housing opportunities and other potential resources.

Homelessness in Glendale has been a concern for the city in recent years, and Glendale Works is the latest example of the growing community’s progressive strategy to offer a hand up – not a handout – to those impacted by homelessness. By design, this program also addresses the safety issues of panhandling, specifically reducing the hazards for both the panhandlers and drivers in high traffic areas.

Phoenix Rescue Mission is also partnering with the cities of Peoria, Goodyear and Avondale on similar public-private programs that address food insecurity, crime and other social issues.

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