INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Pathways to Employment Program is in its second year as panhandlers and the homeless population are able to find work in downtown.
Recycle Force, an electrical waste recycling company continues to help people get off the streets and into positions where they can earn money.
News 8 got a behind-the-scenes look at how Pathways to Employment Program is changing lives.
Frederick Strader used to be a panhandler and now works for Recycle Force.
Strader said, “This place right here is helping me out a whole lot. I’m not homeless anymore and got a good job here. I was scared to come here at first just because panhandling I enjoyed that, but since I put my foot in this door I enjoy this more than panhandling now.”
Co-worker Andrew Cooper mentioned he joined the program to finally make his own money.
“I got tired of the streets. It’s about to get cold out. This makes you feel better about yourself and you’re earning your own paycheck and you’re helping the community,” Cooper said.
Executive Director Glenn Johnson said the need for workers is growing.
“We’re currently expanding. We started off with one crew and now we have three crews that go out everyday,” said Johnson.
Employees with Pathways to Employment pick up liter across the city with the Department of Public Works.
They also recycle electronic waste and eat free lunches from Kroger.
Former panhandlers and homeless people are doing part-time and ful- time work and money from parking meters show up on their paychecks.
“That’s where a lot of the funding that’s going to pay the pandhandlers is coming from the parking meters so it’s good for citizens to know that,” said Janet Keesling President of Keys to Work.
“When you push those few dollars it’s helping someone in your city to find employment.”
Employees also receive free wraparound services like mental health. They’re learning discipline and life skills.
Employee Rose Herrmann said, “I didn’t know the value of a job. I just thought it was a job for a paycheck and I’ll find another one if this doesn’t work, but now I’ve learn there’s value in being a team and there’s value in companies and being a part of a company.”
Most importantly, they’re being given a second chance.
“A lot of nice people, I’m friends with them, I treat everyone the same, no one is unequal,” said supervisor Aaron Baker. We’re all equal, we’re all the same, we all need help.”
“They’re not dirty individuals, they’re not slums, they’re just folks that’s down on hard times and need help. so we’re here to help them,” added Johnson.
Pathways to Employment is not active during the winter months, but Recycle Force is working with the mayor’s office to make the program year-round.