Fort Worth

Fort Worth Program That Hires Homeless to Pick Up Litter Gets $465,000 Boost

City program to hire homeless people full-time to pick up trash

Fort Worth city leaders approved a $465,000 plan on Tuesday that will hire 15 homeless people to pick up trash across the city. 

The ambitious plan will expand a much smaller experiment, which took place the past few years along Lancaster Avenue near downtown where several homeless shelters are located.

Frank Crist was homeless, jobless and just out of prison when he was hired to pick up trash about three years ago as part of a program called Clean Slate.

He said he earns above minimum wage, and gets paid vacation and health benefits.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "A lot better than I did a couple years ago."

In three years, he hasn't missed a day of work.

And it's changed his life.

"I went from staying in a halfway house to homeless shelter to having an apartment," he said Monday as he and a crew were cleaning up the creek in Foster Park.

Fort Worth Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett oversees Clean Slate and pushed for the new funding.

"It has been overwhelmingly a successful program," Bennett said. "I cannot say enough about the responsibility of the workers, the pride they take in their job."

Presbyterian Night Shelter, which has run the program the past few years, submitted the winning bid for the new contract.

Toby Owen, the shelter's director, said the new funding will help clean up the city – and give homeless people a hand up.

"It will put them in full-time work so they can save their money and exit homelessness," he said. "We're super excited to partner with the city of Fort Worth."

An anonymous donor gave the program a $150,000 boost this year, allowing the program to hire even more homeless and expand the focus from Lancaster Avenue.

Bennett said the city will concentrate on neighborhoods that have a problem with litter.

"We're looking not just at growing the existing program the way we know it, but also building the program in many ways we haven't even thought of yet," he said.

Crist, 52, now lives in an apartment and is a supervisor in the program.

He welcomed the new funding.

"It'll help give people a steady job and get them off the street," he said.

The new funding was approved by an 8-0 vote of the City Council.

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