Employee in panhandler work program gains full-time job

Employee in panhandler work program gains full-time job

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A former homeless man has a full-time job thanks to the city’s Pathways to Employment program.

It focuses on putting former panhandlers and the homeless to work.

David Mitchell was one of the first people to start picking up trash as part of the program five weeks ago. Now, he said, he’s started moving up in the world.

Before May 20, 21 people who used to be panhandling or lacking a home got the opportunity to work for the city.

“Yeah, I was definitely in a homeless situation,” Mitchell said.

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Mitchell said he worked hard picking up trash for the city, trying to turn his life around, but he didn’t expect results to happen so quickly. Now, he’s in training with RecycleForce.

On its website, RecycleForce describes itself as a nonprofit delivering recycling services in support of workforce training, development and job placement for formerly incarcerated men and women transitioning back to society. 

“It was very smooth,” Mitchell said of the transition. “They offered me the job, and, you know, I thought about it over the weekend and decided I better take it. When a millionaire of a company offers you a job, you better take it.”

This was the entire point of the Pathways to Employment program, and the city has seen its first success in Mitchell. But, his story isn’t the only success of the program. A total of 14 tons of trash were picked up over five weeks.

“That’s a lot of trash,” said Jeff Bennett, Indianapolis deputy mayor of community development.

That’s 560 pounds of trash a day and about a $1.41 per pound for the city.

“I think it’s absolutely worth it,” Bennett said. “So we get the double benefit. One of the main … or one of the highest-frequency of calls into the mayor’s action center is for litter pickup across the city.”

Now, even though Mitchell “graduated” from the program, there was a sacrifice he had to make for the career he wanted.

“I took a pay cut,” Mitchell said.

Was he disappointed?

“Not really,” Mitchell said. “I got bigger opportunities to look forward to. CDL (commercial driver’s license) training I’m getting, camaraderie … it’s very beneficial to me.”

Mitchell is looking at climbing up in his career and says he has some money saved up to get a place to call home, all because the city offered him a chance.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Mitchell said. “I mean, from where I was to where I’m at now … night and day. I would recommend it for anybody.”

The city said it has a wait list with a couple dozen people on it. But, they’re looking into how they can get them to work hopefully as soon as this summer, if not in 2020.