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Denver's new homeless work program gets national attention, for all the wrong reasons

Posted at 9:54 PM, Nov 07, 2016

DENVER -- A Forbes opinion piece is calling out Denver's new homeless work program saying it has "big problems" and raising concerns about how much money is being paid to the contract company.  

The city launched its new program called Denver Day Works, which helps provide day labor for the homeless, last week.

"I am so happy to be working. It makes me feel good," said one of the participants, Rita Robledo.

"We're going to have our critics along the way, and we recognize that," said Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for Denver Human Services.

The Forbes opinion article says, "creating job opportunities for the homeless is a wonderful idea" but points to a large amount of money going to the contract company instead of wages as one of the program's shortfalls.

Advocates with Denver Homeless Outloud agree.

"I think it's a little excessive on the administration side," said Benjamin Dunning, one of the founders of the grassroots group.

Denver7 obtained a copy of the contract with Bayaud Enterprises, which shows it's being paid $197,000, that's nearly half of the pilot program's entire price tag of $400,000.

The city said it pays for six full and part-time employees as well as other overhead costs like T-shirts for participants.

"There are just slight overhead costs that are going to be associated with any program, Bayaud has told us this is the lowest overhead cost of any of their programs," said Smith.

Smith said the city's goal is to help the homeless find more permanent work even though each participant can only make $600 through the program.

"We hope that long before they get to that $600 mark, we've already transition them into jobs," she said.

"There's no guarantees that any of this work is going to lead to jobs," said Dunning.

People who sign up for the program can choose to work full or half days and start at $12.59 per hour, which is higher than Colorado's minimum wage.

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